February: Heritage Month


February is African American History Month


The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.

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1879 – U.S. President Hayes signed a bill that allowed female attorneys to argue cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

On February 15, 1879, President Rutherford B. Hayes signed a new law that would admit women as members of the Supreme Court bar and allow them to submit and argue cases at the high court.

            Suffragette, teacher, lawyer and presidential candidate Belva Lockwood championed that cause with Congress after the Supreme Court ruled that women – and specifically Lockwood – could not practice law before it. In November 1876, Chief Justice Morrison Waite curtly replied to Lockwood’s request to be admitted to the Supreme Court bar. “By the uniform practice of the Court from its organization to the present time, and by the fair construction of its rules, none but men are permitted to practice before it as attorneys and counselors,” Waite said. The Chief Justice added the Court wouldn’t change its mind unless “required by statute.”

In most cases, state courts also didn’t allow women as lawyers to argue cases at the state-court level. The Supreme Court in an 1872 opinion in Bradwell vs. Illinois confirmed the ability of Illinois to block women from its state bar. Myra Bradwell, a recent law school graduate, asked the Supreme Court to intervene, citing the 14th Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities Clause .

Justice Samuel Miller, citing the recent Slaughterhouse Cases, said the clause didn’t apply to the ability of a state to regulate its own conduct. “The right to control and regulate the granting of license to practice law in the courts of a state is one of those powers which are not transferred for its protection to the federal government,” Miller said.

Justice Joseph Bradley’s concurring opinion went much farther, stating that women weren’t fit to argue Supreme Court cases or even become lawyers. “Man is, or should be, woman’s protector and defender. The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life,” Story said. “The paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator.”

Undaunted, Lockwood spent three years after her 1874 rejection lobbying Congress and former President Ulysses Grant (who had presented Lockwood with her law degree) for a law that would force the Supreme Court to recognize the right of women to appear before it. President Hayes signed “An act to relieve certain legal disabilities of women,” which read that “any woman who shall have been a member of the bar of the highest court of any State or Territory or of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia for the space of three years, and shall have maintained a good standing before such court, and who shall be a person of good moral character, shall, on motion, and the production of such record, be admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Lockwood had been practicing law in the District of Columbia and qualified as the first female attorney to appear before the Court, in the 1880 case Kaiser v. Stickney. Lockwood spoke for about 20 minutes in court. Lockwood didn’t prevail in that case but won her second and final case at the Supreme Court in 1906. (She also ran twice for President on the National Equal Rights Party ticket.
Lockwood wouldn’t be the last woman to argue at the Supreme Court. According to research compiled by the Supreme Court Historical Society and The Constitutional Sources Project, women had argued 1,430 cases at the Court as of December 2016. More than 700 women had presented cases at Supreme Court arguments since Lockwood appeared in 1880.

Scott Bomboy is the editor in chief of the National Constitution Center.

Filed Under: 14th Amendment, Article III, Section 1

In the Library: “The Invisibles” by Jesse J. Holland ~ African American History

Jesse J. Holland’s book, “The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House” offers new insight into lives of these men and women who lived in bondage in the White House. (Bettmann/CORBIS )

Please click on links in green for more information

How did you begin researching the story? 

Only one or two of the slaves who worked for the president ever had anything written—Paul Jennings wrote a memoir—but there’s very little written about these men and women enslaved by the presidents. Most of my research was done by reading between lines of presidential memoirs and piecing all of it into one coherent narrative. Presidential historians that work at Monticello and Hermitage in Tennessee, for example, want this research done; they were thrilled when someone wanted to look at these records and were able to send me a lot of materials.

What were some of the more unexpected details you can across during your research?

One of the things that surprised me is how much information was written about these slaves without calling them slaves. They were called servants, they were staff— but they were slaves. Andrew Jackson’s horse racing operation included slave jockeys. There have been things written about Andrew Jackson and horses and jockeys, but not one mentioned the word “slaves.” They were called employees in all the records. So, it’s there, once you know the words to look for. I was also surprised with how much time the presidents spent talking about their slaves in those same code words. When you start reading memoirs, ledgers, these people show up again and again and again, but they are never actually called slaves.

Which president’s relationship with his slaves surprised you the most? 

With Thomas Jefferson, there’s been so much said about him and his family, I don’t know if I discovered anything new, but everything is about context. We mostly talk about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, but James Hemings would have been the first White House chef, if not for the spat between him and Thomas Jefferson.

Or you look at [Joseph] Fossett being caught on White House grounds trying to see his wife. It surprised me because you would think things like that would be more well known. The Thomas Jefferson story is overwhelmed about him and Sally Hemmings, but there are so many stories there.


Also, with everything we know about George Washington, I was shocked to find he advertised in the newspaper for a recapture of an escaped slave. I hadn’t thought any had escaped until I started working on this and then to find he’d advertised for the return, that’s not subtle. He wanted him back and he took whatever route he could take, including taking out an advertisement.

How does reading about these slaves help us better understand the early presidents? 

In the past, we’ve talked about their attitudes in general toward slaves and now we can talk in specifics, and include the names of the slaves they were dealing with. That’s one thing I hope not just historians, but people in general pick out of the abstract. Begin talking about the specifics: this is how the relationships between George Washington and William Lee or Thomas Jefferson with James Hemings or Andrew Jackson with Monkey Simon. This helps us understand presidents’ policies when it came to slavery and race relations at this time. If they said something publicly but did something else privately, it gives us insight into who they are.

Was it frustrating writing around the limited information available?

One of the things I talk about in the book is that this is just a first step. There is no telling how many stories that have been lost because, as a country, we didn’t value these stories. We’re always learning more about the presidents as we go forward and we’ll also learn more about the people who cooked their meals and dressed them.

There’s people doing great work on slave dwellings in the South, great work on history of African American cooking, slave cooking in the past. It’s not the information wasn’t always here, we’re just interested in it now. As we go forward and learn more information and find these old hidden ledgers and photographs, we’ll have a clearer picture of where we came from as a country and that will help us decide where we are going in future.



Black History …. African Slave Tortures and Trade by country

African Slave Trade Ad

African Slave Trade Ad

Slave Tortures



Slave Tortures

Portugal Slave Trade

Portugal Slave Trade
1501-1866 Portugal transported 5,848,265 people from Africa to the Americas.

French Slave Trade

French Slave Trade
1501-1866 France transported 1,381,404 Africans to America.

Great Britain Slave Trade

Great Britain Slave Trade
1501-1866 The British transported 3,259,440 Africans to the Americas.

Spain Slave Trade

Spain Slave Trade
1501-1866 Spain transported 1,061,524 Africans to the Americas

Denmark Slave Trade

Denmark Slave Trade
1501-1866 Denmark transported 111,041 people from Africa.

United States Slave Trade

United States Slave Trade
1501-1866 The USA transported 305,326 Africans to the Americas.

Netherlands Slave Trade

Netherlands Slave Trade
1501-1866 The Netherlands transported 554,336 Africans.

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