Penn Law Milestones: Black History at Penn Law

The Penn Law Milestones series of digital exhibitionss celebrates the accomplishments of students, faculty and staff. Penn Law has been celebrating Black accomplishments since 1888 when Aaron Albert Mossell became the first Black man to graduate from Penn Law. The list below and the accompanying visual timeline at the bottom of the page outlines Black history here at Penn Law. 

Credit: Merle J. Slyhoff, Collection Development Librarian

1888 - Aaron Albert Mossell, first Black man to graduate from Penn Law.

1926 – Sadie Tanner Mossell (Alexander) L’27 and Robert Burke Johnson L’27 become first Black contributors and Associate Editors of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.

1927 - Sadie Tanner Mossell (Alexander) becomes first Black woman to graduate from Penn Law School.

1970 - Black Law Students Association is created at Penn Law School.

1975 - Ralph Smith becomes the first Black man to join the Penn Law faculty.

1977 Regina Austin L’73 becomes the first Black woman to join the Penn Law faculty.

1979 – The Black Students Union publishes the first directory of Black alumni who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

1986 - Vernon Francis L’87 becomes first Black male Editor-in-Chief of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.

1994 – The Black Law Students Association (BLSA) establishes a Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Committee and each year hosts an annual dinner and conference to honor Dr. Sadie Tanner Mosell Alexander’s legacy by delving into legal issues that are pertinent to the Black community and committing to progressive legal advocacy.

2003 - Desa Burton L’04 named first Black Editor-in-Chief / first Black female Editor-in-Chief of the University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law.

Circa 2004 - Penn Law Black Alumni Association created University of Pennsylvania Black Law Alumni Directory.

2004 - Akua Asare L’05 named first Black Editor-in-Chief / first Black female Editor-in-Chief of the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law

2012 – Dorothy Roberts appointed Inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander ED’18, GR’21, L’27 Professor of Civil Rights.

2014 - Wendell Pritchett named Penn Law Interim Dean and Presidential Professor.

2015 – Kendra Sandidge L’16 named first Black female Editor-in-Chief of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.

2017 - Wendell Pritchett, James S. Riepe Presidential Professor of Law and Education, becomes 30th Provost at the University of Pennsylvania.

2020 – Publication of Black Women Future Leaders by Dana Dyer L'22 and Magali Duque L'22 in conjunction with Prof. Rangita de Silva de Alwis course “Women, Law, and Leadership”.

2020 – Creation of the Dr. Sadie Alexander Scholarships: The three new scholarships will be available in Spring 2021 for incoming students whose education, experience, and professional commitments advance racial justice and honor the work and legacy of Dr. Sadie T.M. Alexander L’27. 

2020 Osagie Imasogie LLM’85 appointed first Black Chair of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Board of Advisors.

2021 - Jocelyn A.K. Walcott L’22 named first Black Editor-in-Chief / first Black female Editor-in-Chief of The Regulatory Review. 

Penn Law Black History Timeline