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Abram (Abraham) W. Shadd was born in Pennsylvania or Ohio in 1844, of a free Black family known as active abolitionists. Shadd was admitted to practice in the state supreme court on March 25, 1872. His residence was listed as Chicot County, Arkansas, although he also practiced in Mississippi where he was the first Black attorney and became a well-known politician. His name does not appear as attorney of record in official Arkansas court records, and it is probable that he practiced very little law in Arkansas.

After living in Canada with his family for several years as a young man, A.W. Shadd taught school in Detroit prior to the Civil War. In the war, he served with the 55th Massachusetts Regiment, beginning as a private and ending with the rank of sergeant major. Shadd returned to Detroit after the war, where he had a photography business and studied law. Eventually, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he obtained an LL.B. degree from Howard University in 1871. After moving to Mississippi, Shadd practiced law in Washington County, owned a saloon, and was elected clerk of the circuit court. Shadd died in Mississippi in 1878.

His father, Abraham D. Shadd, attended and was active in conventions at which free Blacks militated for expanded rights. In December 1849, he worked with (future) Arkansas attorney Mifflin Gibbs at a Colored Citizens of Pennsylvania convention. Abram Shadd’s sister attended Howard University’s law school as its first woman student and graduated in 1883. In addition to fighting for the rights of Black people, Mary Ann Shadd Cary was a champion of women’s suffrage.

Sources: Judith Kilpatrick, “(EXTRA)Ordinary Men: African-American Lawyers and Civil Rights in Arkansas Before 1950,” 53 Ark. Law Rev. 299, 302 n 61, 307 n39, 338-39 (2000); Class List, Howard University School of Law, Library Archives; AR Supreme Court Admission Records;

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