Little Known Black History Fact: Violette Neatley Anderson

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Violette Neatley Anderson achieved a number of notable firsts for both African-Americans and women in the legal world. Chief among her achievements, she became the first African-American woman to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 29, 1926.

Anderson was born Violette Neatley in July 16, 1882 in London, England to a German mother and a West Indian father. As a small child, Anderson and her family relocated to Chicago where she attended high school and began furthering her education at the Chicago Athenaeum. She then attended the Chicago Seminar of Sciences before working as a court reporter from 1905 to 1920. This job inspired her to complete her law degree studies at Chicago Law School, now known as the University of Chicago Law School.

In 1922, she was named an assistant prosecutor in Chicago, the first woman and African-American to do so. In 1936, she helped lobby on behalf of the Bankhead-Jones act, which gave poor farmers a pathway and financial assistance to become eventual farm owners. Anderson was also the eighth president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and was also a member of the Federation of Colored Women’s Club and the Chicago Council of Social Agencies.

Violette Anderson passed in 1937.

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