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Solomon Seay Jr. is a prominent civil rights attorney who worked on cases involving the Selma to Montgomery March, the Freedom Riders and public school desegregation in the landmark Lee v. Macon decision.
Solomon Seay Jr. was a prominent Civil Rights attorney in Montgomery, Alabama who worked on cases involving the Selma to Montgomery March, The Freedom Riders, John Lewis and the Lee vs. Macon public school desegregation.
After suffering the loss of his wife, Thurgood Marshall returned to the courts and fought for integration of schools at the local level.
After the Brown vs. Board of Education Decision, Thurgood Marshall became one of America’s leading figures for integration. But in light of this victory, Marshall soon faced personal tragedy.
As chief counsel to the NAACP, Thurgood Marshall argued the case that would define his career and legacy--Brown vs Board of Eduction.
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Born on December 2, 1931, in Montgomery, Alabama, Solomon Seay Jr. is a pioneering attorney who, after receiving a law degree from Howard University, returned to Montgomery in 1957 to represent civil rights cases. At the time, he was one of only three African-American attorneys in Montgomery, along with Fred Gray and Charles D. Langford. Seay worked on cases involving the Selma to Montgomery March, the Freedom Riders,
"I came awfully close to death's door not long after I ventured into Chilton County wielding only my license to practice law. I have never been afraid to die ... The battle for civil rights is far from over ... and my soul still stirs to be on the battlefield."
"Liberty and justice [are] only for those who got the guts to grab it!"
and public school desegregation in the landmark Lee v. Macon decision, among many other civil rights cases in his 50-year career. His memoir, Jim Crow and Me: Stories from My Life as a Civil Rights Lawyer, was published in 2009.
African-American civil rights attorney Solomon Seay Jr. was born on December 2, 1931, in Montgomery, Alabama. Seay's mother was a schoolteacher. His father, Solomon Seay Sr., was a civil rights activist and a renowned minister with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. While in junior high school, Seay recalls being inspired to activism by a teacher who completed her recitation of the pledge of allegiance to the flag with "liberty and justice for those who got the guts to grab it!" Seay thought if he could go to law school and practice law he "could stop the world and get the rules right."
As an undergraduate, Seay attended Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina. After graduating from Livingstone in 1952, he attended Howard University School of Law in Washington, DC. His tuition, room and board, books and cost of living expenses were paid for by the state in order to deter blacks from applying to law schools in Alabama. Although his attendance was interrupted by 21 months of Army service, Seay graduated from Howard in 1957.
Seay returned to Montgomery that summer, and began preparing for the Alabama bar exam. After passing on the first attempt, he praticed law at his own firm from 1957 until June of 1964 when attorney Fred Gray approached Seay to join his firm. At the time, Seay and Gray were two of only three black civil rights lawyers in Montgomery, the third being Charles D. Langford. In 1955, Gray and Langford represented civil rights activist Rosa Parks. Parks' refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man sparked the year-long Montgomery Boycott that would finally result in the desegregation of the Montgomery public transportation system.
In 1957, Seay represented Mark Gilmore, a young man who was arrested, beaten and held prisoner for taking a shortcut across the all-white Oak Park. The case turned into a class action lawsuit against the City of Montgomery Unfortunately, rather than desegregating the city's parks, the city responded by closing all of Montgomery's parks to the public for the next nine years.
Seay Jr. and Gray represented four African-American ministers including his father Reverend Solomon Seay Sr., Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth and Joseph Lowery in the case of The New York Times v. Sullivan. The case involved Montgomery Police Commissioner L.B. Sullivan, who sued the newspaper and four defendants for printing a defamatory ad written by Bayard Rustin.
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Learn more about black history's most esteemed legal professionals, from African-American pioneers such as George Washington Williams and Constance Baker Motley, to legendary Supreme Court justices Clarence Thomas and Thurgood Marshall, to high-profile Harvard grads Barack and Michelle Obama, and many more. Explore our list of famous black lawyers, including full biographies, photo galleries and videos, only on Biography.com.
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African-Americans have a long history of activism in America, from fighting for the right to vote to pushing for integrated public spaces. Activists like Stokely Carmichael organized freedom rides, James Meredith fought to integrate blacks and whites at the University of Mississippi, and Rosa Parks instigated the Montgomery Bus Boycott. These protests were often legal and nonviolent, and made a powerful impact on civil rights in the United States. With the help of activists like these—and many others—the country slowly worked to acknowledge the basic rights and contributions of African-Americans. Activists outisde of the U.S. include Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, who have fought against apartheid in South Africa. Learn more about the many black activists who fought against the odds in order to achieve equality.
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