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MCCA Renames Innovator Award to Honor George B. Vashon

George B. Vashon was an innovator of the first degree. Denied admission to the Pennsylvania bar based on his race, he applied to the bar in New York State, where he was the first African American admitted to practice law in 1847. MCCA will honor his legacy at its Pathways Conference held in New York City. 

Vashon graduated from Oberlin College, the first college in the country to admit African Americans and white Americans equally, in 1844. He later received an M.A. from Oberlin in 1849. 

He was a noted abolitionist and drafted resolutions calling for the freedom of African Americans. In 1855, he continued his trailblazing, becoming the first African American to run for statewide office in New York.

After the Civil War, Vashon relocated to Washington, DC, where he practiced law and taught at Howard University. 

He died in Mississippi in 1878, three years after being admitted to the bar in that state. 

“Our goal with any of our awards is to recognize both tenacity and creativity in the quest for diversity and inclusion,” says Joe West, MCCA’s president and CEO. “George B. Vashon’s steadfast determination in the face of discrimination and his accomplishments following rejection of admission to the bar in Pennsylvania are emblematic of this principle. It is our hope that these awards will illustrate to all the value and truth embodied in Mr. Vashon’s ‘Liberty of Mind’ speech delivered at Oberlin College after he was named valedictorian: ‘…genius, talent, and learning are not withheld by our common Father from people of color.’”

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