BHM Unsung Hero: Judge Jane Bolin

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Kaya Schultz, Editor in Chief

Although you may not be familiar with the name, Jane Bolin is one of the most courageous and influential people of all time. Despite heavy racism and discouragement from virtually everyone in her life, Bolin followed her dreams and broke down many barriers for not only Black Americans, but females as well. 

Bolin was born nearby in  Poughkeepsie, N.Y on April 11, 1908. From a young age she was inspired by her father, Gaius C. Bolin, who was the first Black graduate of Williams College and had his own legal practice. It was clear that Gaius had passed down his intelligence to Jane and soon she was accepted to Wellesley College, entering as one of two Black freshmen attending the school. Despite many racist encounterments and discouragement from many, Bolin was one of the top students and was named a “Wellesley Scholar.” She would later go on to Yale Law School and become the first Black woman to earn a degree there. 

However, her legacy didn’t stop there. After Bolin was dismissed by local law firms due to her race and gender, she decided to practice law alone with her husband, Ralph E. Mizelle. Through much hard work and dedication, she was finally appointed as a judge of the Domestic Relations Court (now called Family Court) New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. This made her the first ever Black judge. 

With more power now, Bolin was able to make real change in a segregated society. She plowed over many racial barriers by establishing rules such as requiring child care agencies that got public funding to accept children regardless of their race or ethnicity and ended the practice of assigning probation officers based on race or religion.

Despite the many people that were against Bolin and all the adversity she faced, she was still able to achieve all of her goals and then used her success to create the change that she always wanted to see. Even after she retired as a judge, she still committed her time to helping advocating for children’s rights and education by volunteering and serving at many programs. She devoted her life to making changes in a world that tried to hold her back so people of her race and gender wouldn’t have to face the same obstacles she did.