Since there are so many facets of the history that people of African descent have made in this country, I’ve decided to continue my “Black History 365″ series from my poetry blog here on my AfrocentriqueAZ blog. I’ll be posting a new “First Black” every day this month and every Wednesday for the months after that.
In honor of WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH all March the articles will all be about first Black WOMEN… Today’s is Jewel S. LaFontant-Mankarious
Jewel Stradford Lafontant-Mankarious (April 28, 1922 – May 31, 1997) was the first female deputy solicitor general of the United States, an official in the administration of President George H. W. Bush, and an attorney in Chicago. She also was considered by President Richard Nixon as a possible nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Born in Chicago as Jewel Carter Stradford, she was the daughter of noted Supreme Court of the United States attorney and co-founder of the National Bar Association, C. Francis Stradford and Aida Arabella Stradford. Jewel earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Oberlin College in 1943. While at Oberlin College, Jewel was captain of the volleyball team and a member of the Musical Union, Forensic Union, Cosmopolitan Club, and many other activities. Jewel began law school in 1943 and was the only African-American woman in her class. In 1946, she was the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Chicago Law School.
In 1947, she was admitted to the Illinois State Bar. The same year, Jewel became a trial lawyer for the Legal Aid Bureau of Chicago. She formed a law firm in Chicago in 1949 with her first husband, John W. Rogers, Sr. In 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower appointed Jewel as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. She served in that role until 1958.
In July 1960, she was a delegate-at-large to the Republican National Convention. She gave the seconding speech for Nixon’s nomination to be the Republican candidate for President during the 1960 Presidential election. In 1961, she started a new law firm in Chicago with her father and second husband called Stradford, Lafontant and Lafontant. In 1963, she became the first black woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court of the United States. Her case, Beatrice Lynum v. The State of Illinois set the precedent for the landmark Miranda v. The State of Arizona case in 1966. She ran unsuccessfully for Illinois judicial elections in 1962 and 1970.
She sat on many corporate and non-profits boards, including the boards of Jewel Companies, Trans World Airlines Mobil Corporation, Revlon, the Illinois Humane Society, Howard University, and Oberlin College.