Earl B. Dickerson’s name may not be well known to the public, but the civil rights lawyer lived a larger-than-life existence. Now, scholars, relatives and activists are marking the 100th anniversary of his 1920 graduation from the University of Chicago Law School in celebration of his becoming the first African American to receive a juris doctor. The school’s Black Law Students Association is named in his honor.
Dickerson also won an important case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1940, Hansberry v. Lee, which ended a restrictive covenant that blocked African Americans from buying homes in a section of Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. It’s a textbook case most students study in law school. The story behind that litigation was later fictionalized in A Raisin in the Sun, an iconic drama by the plaintiff’s youngest daughter, the playwright Lorraine Hansberry.
But that accomplishment is just one part of Dickerson’s dramatic life story. “It wasn’t until I started looking further into him that I realized, Oh my gosh—there’s so much more to him, and nobody’s talking about this,” says William Hubbard, a professor at the U of C Law School. “He was remarkable not just because he was a great lawyer, but because he did so many things, each of which embodied what it means to be a great lawyer.”
Read more at ABA Journal