George Lewis Ruffin
First African American Harvard Law School Graduate and Boston Judge
George Lewis Ruffin was born in Richmond,
Virginia. He moved with his family to Boston in
1853 to protest Virginia's ban on African Americans
learning to read. After finishing school, Mr. Ruffin
worked in a barbershop while he studied law. He
graduated from Harvard Law School with the
distinction of being the first black graduate of a law
school in the United States. He was one of the first
African Americans to be admitted to the
Massachusetts bar, and he became the first African-
American judge in Massachusetts. Mr. Ruffin was
elected to the House of Representatives and served
on the Common Council.
In addition to his successful legal career, Mr. Ruffin and his wife, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, were active in the fight against slavery and the struggle for justice.
In celebration of his work and life, the Justice George Lewis Ruffin Society was founded in 1984, and supports minority professionals in the Massachusetts criminal justice system.
Last Modified: May 16, 2011