San Diego's first African American attorney, John Henry Stuart

San Diego’s first African American attorney, John Henry Stuart

This is the first in a series of installments that the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association will be doing throughout Black History Month.  We encourage you to take a moment, read and appreciate the breadth and depth of commitments of many African-Americans to civil and human rights for all San Diegans.

There is a long and rich tradition of African-Americans engaging in civic life in San Diego.  The San Diego History Center captures these accounts.  As we prepare for Black History Month, we wanted to start by providing the most detailed account by any historian we have seen of the history of African-Americans in the law in San Diego.  It provides important historical context for the hard-fought successes of many San Diegans. You can download and read this comprehensive window into San Diego’s African-American legal heritage and legacy here:

San Diego’s Black Legal Community 1890-2010

This 38-page document, produced by Robert Fikes, Jr. of San Diego State University, is a tremendous window into the evolution of the legal community in San Diego and the rights of members of the African-American community over more than a century.

If you have historic documents or photos or stories to share about your experiences as an African-American attorney, judge or other legal professional, please email