Law School Admissions


Black Enrollment in Law Schools: Forward to the Past?

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



enrolled student demographics, law school diversity, race and ethnicity


For a hundred years after the first Black student entered an American law school in 1868, Blacks were barely visible in law schools. Starting in the late 1960s, they made modest gains in enrollment. Black representation in law school peaked within a decade, and leveled off by the mid-1970s. This enrollment plateau continued until the mid-1980s, when signs appeared that Blacks might again become a rarity in law schools.

This article focuses on the barriers to Blacks' entry into law school from the nineteenth century, when law schools came into prominence, until the present. An examination of the structural and racial forces explains why so few Blacks entered, and a disproportionately few continue to enter law school. The article proceeds chronologically, considering enrollment patterns and explanations for them in three periods: 1) the century following the enrollment of the first Black law student in 1868; 2) the decade of substantial growth in Black enrollment; and 3) the leveling off in Black enrollment during the late 1970s and 1980s.