Their ancestors were enslaved by law. Today, they are graduates of the nation’s preeminent historically black law school.

In the history of the United States, black Americans were the only group for whom it was ever illegal to learn to read or write. And so when emancipation finally came, schools and colleges were some of the first institutions that the freed people clamored to build. Black Americans believed that education meant liberation, and just eight months after the Civil War, the first historically black college opened in the South.

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