WHO IS D. AUGUSTUS STRAKER?
The D. Augustus Straker Bar Association is named in honor of D. Augustus Straker, the pioneering African-American attorney, author and jurist. He was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, in the West Indies. As a young man, Straker studied philosophy, French, and Latin. He later came to the United States to educate former slaves and received his law degree from Howard University in 1871. In 1875, after working for the United States Department of Treasury, Straker was appointed an Inspector of Customs at Columbia, South Carolina.
In 1876, he was elected to the South Carolina legislature and re-elected twice thereafter. Later, Straker became the Dean of Law at Allen University, a small African American institution located in Columbia, South Carolina.After his tenure at Allen University, Straker relocated to Detroit to practice law. In the course of his practice, Straker became the first African-American attorney to appear before the Michigan Supreme Court. In Ferguson v Gies, 82 Mich 358 (1890), Straker successfully argued that the "separate but equal" doctrine was unconstitutional under Michigan law. The unanimous decision was remarkable given the doctrine's rapidly rising tide which reached its epic three years later in the United States Supreme Court decision in Plessey v Ferguson, 163 US 537 (1893). Gies has come to be known as Michigan's "Great Civil Rights Case."
Gies, which was decided on October 10, 1890, actually preceded by some 64 years the landmark United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v Board of Education which ushered in the modern civil rights era. A few years after the Gies decision, Straker was elected the first African-American jurist in Michigan. In 1892, he became a Wayne County Circuit Court Commissioner. He served two terms.Clearly, Michigan's civil rights heritage owes much to the memory of D. Augustus Straker. In choosing his name, the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association seeks to honor D. Augustus Straker and his dedication to the practice of law.
HISTORY AND MISSION
The D. Augustus Straker Bar Association was formed October 4, 1990, as a special purpose bar association recognized by the State Bar of Michigan. It was founded as a proactive organization of diverse attorneys, with a mission of promoting legal practice opportunities for minorities and women and to facilitate equal justice for all citizens in Oakland County. Membership includes a racially diverse coalition of lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals.
The mission of the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association is to increase minority representation in the legal profession, support and encourage legal practice opportunities for minorities, and facilitate equal justice for underserved members of the Oakland County community.