Date of Award
Through the years Blacks have struggled for equality from the right to sit anywhere they chose on a bus to the right to eat in any restaurant. One of the most significant areas of struggle has been equal employment opportunities for Black professionals. The number of Black professionals has increased through the years; however, this increase is minimal when compared to the overall number of professionals in the United States. For example, "the number of Black attorneys has increased by 600% over the past seventeen years... [yet] they only constitute four percent of the total number of lawyers in the United States" (Kirby 47). In 1980 Black lawyers represented only 13,594 of the 501,834 Ameican lawyers and only 2,153 of the 118,700 enrolled law students by 1985. The number of Black lawyers is in short supply; "the word that best describes the state of black judges is dearth," according to Kirby (47). In 1985 the number of Black state and federal court judges was approximately 450 compared to 12,093 whites (Kirby 47).
Many Black lawyers hope to change the trends of social and economic inequality by working from the inside out. Johnny Cochran sees the law as a tool to empower the powerless, and Blacks who have felt powerless for many years choose law to change the "system" of oppression in the United States. (Randolph 116). Fred McCann, a black Oklahoma City lawyer, says that he entered the field to ensure lifetime financial security for himself Another Oklahoma City lawyer, Visanio Johnson, chose law because he wanted to help in the civil rights struggle and believed that law was the best way.
This research provides information on lawyers in the Oklahoma City area. It includes reasons for obtaining law degrees and entering the legal profession. It explains the reasons for minority under-representation in law as seen through their eyes. It sheds light on racial discrimination that still exists in law schools, law firms, and courtrooms. One practical outcome of this study is that it can help young Blacks considering law as a career to understand some of the obstacles they may face and some advice for coping with them from people who have traveled the road already.
Anderson, Tynan D., "The (Social and Economic Paradigm of Racism and Its Impact on the Educational and Professional Experiences of Seven African-American Attorneys in Oklahoma City" (1996). McCabe Thesis Collection. 36.