The information in this post was gathered from the research compiled in an article from the December 27, 2021 edition of The Alabama Lawyer entitled, “Blazing the Trail: Alabama’s First Black Lawyers.” To read the article in its entirety, click here.
In a piece commemorating the first graduating class of African American attorneys of Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., a black newspaper commissioned them with the sobering reminder that they were going “into the world…to give to the false and hate inspired charge of the black man’s natural inferiority a living, forcible, and effective denial.”
One of those graduates, who likely read those very words and personally felt their gravity as one being commissioned, was Moses Wenslydale Moore.
DISCLAIMER: The following blog post is just advice, and you will be better served to call David S. Clark with your bankruptcy questions. This blog contains helpful tips and advice, but is not professional legal advice, and shouldn’t treated as such.
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An Inspiring Immigrant
Born in British Guiana on February 15, 1841, Moore was born a free man since Britain had already granted emancipation to enslaved people in 1832.
Not much is known about Moore’s early life, but years later in 1867, Moore was listed as a schoolteacher sailing from London to New York. The next year and a half of Moore’s life once again fell into relative historical obscurity, though we can be sure that he faced much uncertainty while in America given the state of the country after the Civil War during the tumultuous early years of Reconstruction.
In 1869, though, Moore enrolled at the Howard University School of Law to be a member of the 6-man class of black lawyers. This group of aspiring attorneys met in the home offices of their professors since they did not have proper classrooms at the time and they took evening classes since all of them worked full-time jobs.
The Move to Mobile
Following their graduation from the Howard University School of Law in 1871, all 6 graduating men were admitted to the Washington, D.C. bar. Soon after Moses Moore departed the nation’s capital bound for the Deep South–Mobile, Alabama.
One can only speculate what this black man was thinking while en route to the embattled “Heart of Dixie.” Six years prior to Moore’s move men, women, and children who looked like him were bound to work and live in subhuman conditions as slaves.
Surely many friends and family told him that attempting to work as an attorney was too dangerous for a black man. However, Moore was evidently undeterred and bound to be a “living, forcible, and effective denial” of hatred motivated by racist bigotry.
Admitted: An African American Attorney
While in Mobile, Moore was presented for examination in order to be admitted to the Alabama State Bar with no little public interest. After a “very satisfactory examination,” Moore was successfully admitted to the bar.
He then moved to Selma–further into the heart of Alabama–and it was when he lived here that he stood before the Alabama Supreme Court seeking admittance to practice law within the state. On January 4, 1872, Moses Wenslydale Moore was admitted to practice in Alabama.
A Black Lawyer’s Legacy
After only a few years in Alabama, Moore moved to Mississippi for a short time and then took the voyage back across the Atlantic to be an English professor in France.
Though little is known about the actual legal practice of Mr. Moore in Alabama and observers of history can speculate as to why he decided to leave Alabama, the South, and the United States altogether; he offered a unique contribution to Black history in the United States.
In the face of great uncertainty and danger, Moses Moore did what none before him had done in becoming the first African-American Attorney in Alabama and for that all Alabamians owe him our admiration and thanks.
DISCLAIMER: The above blog post is just advice, and you will be better served to call David S. Clark with your bankruptcy questions. This blog contains helpful tips and advice, but is not professional legal advice, and shouldn’t treated as such.