Macon Bolling Allen

Quick Look At Allen

Macon Bolling Allen was a self-taught lawyer who was the first Black man licensed to practice law in America.

Early Life

Macon Bolling Allen was born in the state of Indiana in 1816. Little is known about Bolling's early life, but his birth name was actually Allen Macon Bolling. Some sources say that he was born on August 4th. He was biracial and grew up a free man.


After teaching himself how to read and write, Bolling took his first job as a teacher. Here, he improved his skills. In his early 20's, he moved to Portland, Maine, and changed his name from Allen Macon Bolling to Macon Bolling Allen. He connected with General Samuel Fessenden, a local anti-slavery leader, who took Allen up as a law clerk and apprentice at his firm. Allen then also began advocating against slavery. In 1844, after working under the general's wing, Fessenden had decided that Allen had gained enough experience and expertise to become a lawyer. The Portland District stated that since he was not a citizen of Maine, he should not be able to practice law in Maine, though Maine's law contradicted that ruling. It stated that anyone of "good moral character" should be allowed to be admitted to the state bar. After being denied admission to the bar by the court, Allen applied to be admitted by examination. In 1844, he took the bar exam and passed, and was given citizenship to Maine, making him the first Black man who was licensed to practice law in America. Even with his credentials, it was difficult for Allen to find work. Not many white clients wanted to be represented in court by a Black lawyer at the time. He moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1845 where he opened the first Black law office in America with Robert Morris Jr. He passed the Massachusetts bar exam on May 5th, 1845. Allen also met his wife, Hannah Allen in Boston and they had five sons. In 1848, after passing yet another exam, he was appointed Justice of the Peace for Middlesex County, a county not far from Boston. This accomplishment was unheard of at the time for a Black person. In this position, Allen heard civil cases and played an important role in the development of the states as America was not even a century old at the time. This made him the first Black man to become a justice in the United States. In 1846, Allen attended an anti-slavery convention where he advocated for Black people in bondage.

After the Civil War, in 1868, Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where he opened a new law office. In 1872, he ran for secretary of state as a Republican. In 1873, he became a judge in the Inferior Court of Charleston before being elected probate judge for Charleston County in 1874. Allen later moved to Washington, D.C., where the Land Improvement Association hired him as an attorney. After working in the legal field for 50 years, he passed away in 1894.

Macon Bolling Allen truly showed that anything is possible. He became the first Black man to accomplish so much at a time when there were so many obstacles for Black people in America. Allen is a true inspiration.