Charlotte E. Ray Award
About Charlotte E. Ray
In 1869, Howard University hired her as a teacher for its Preparatory and Normal Department, however, Ray was not satisfied with being a teacher. Ray applied to Howard University’s Law School, under the name “C.E. Ray” to disguise her gender. University officials reluctantly accepted her application and she excelled at her legal studies, specifically corporate law. Ray graduated in 1872 and became the first African American woman to graduate from an American law school and receive a law degree.
Ray achieved another first in 1872 when she was admitted to the bar in the District of Columbia, which had recently removed the word “male” from its requirements. Ray opened her own law office in Washington, D.C. but found it difficult to make a living as an attorney due to racial and gender bias. She returned to New York in 1879 and became a Brooklyn school teacher.