JULY 22, 1939

Jane Bolin Credit: Wikipedia

Jane Bolin became the first Black female judge in the United States when she was sworn in as a family judge in New York City. 

Her career adviser discouraged her from applying to Yale Law School, but she graduated in the top 20 in her class, becoming the first Black woman to graduate from that school. In turn, she became the first Black woman to pass the New York State bar exam and the first to join New York City’s law department. 

Bolin fought to end segregation in child placement facilities, including skin color-based assignments for probation officers. She worked with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt on the Wiltwyck School, which used a holistic approach to help end youth crime. 

In a 1958 speech, Bolin spoke out for women’s rights: “Those gains we have made were never graciously and generously granted. We have had to fight every inch of the way — in the face of sometimes insufferable humiliations.” 

She served on New York’s Family Court for four decades and also on the boards of the NAACP, National Urban League and Child Welfare League. Constance Baker Motley, who served as a federal judge, called Bolin a role model. 

After her retirement at age 70, she became a school consultant and child reading volunteer. After her death, Congressman Charles Rangel delivered a tribute to her on the floor of the House of Representatives, and New York renamed the Queens Midtown tunnel in her honor.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.