Edward Garrison Draper Posthumously Admitted to MD State Bar 166 Years After Being Blocked


September 15, 2023

Edward Garrison Draper has been admitted to the Maryland State Bar by Maryland’s Supreme Court 166 years after he was first blocked from practicing law in the state.

Born in Maryland in 1834, Draper should have become Maryland’s first Black lawyer when he applied in 1857, reports Bloomberg Law. However, a Baltimore judge said Draper was qualified to practice law except for a statute that blocked non-White citizens from being lawyers.

According to Bloomberg Law, shortly after being denied admittance to the Maryland bar, Draper and his wife moved to a colony in Liberia to pursue his dreams of practicing law there.


But within a year of setting up his new life in Liberia, Draper died of tuberculosis at 24 years old. And he had no descendants.

Draper’s posthumous bar petition was led by lawyer John Browning.

“When people think about pioneering early Black lawyers, we tend to think about Thurgood Marshall, but there were pioneers long before that,” Browning said .“The story of Black lawyers in Maryland began with Edward Garrison Draper.”


Draper will be posthumously admitted to the Maryland bar in a special session held in Annapolis on Oct. 26.

Photo by Dartmouth Library

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