Historical Profile: Edwin A. Randolph, Class of 1880

Edwin Randolph headshot
Edwin A. Randolph is the first Black person to both graduate from Yale Law School and be admitted to the Connecticut bar.
branding for bicentennial

In 1880, Edwin A. Randolph became the first Black person to graduate from Yale Law School and first Black person to be admitted to the Connecticut bar. Prior to Yale, Randolph was enrolled in seminary school in Washington, D.C.

Randolph was born in 1850 in Richmond, Virginia, where he would later work as a lawyer for 25 years. Despite his landmark admittance to the Connecticut bar, he only practiced law in his home state.  

Regarded as a leading politician of his time, Randolph held a number of public service positions which included serving on the Richmond Common Council from 1881 to 1883, the Richmond Board of Aldermen from 1883 to 1886, and as Virginia’s commissioner at the World’s Exposition in New Orleans from 1884 to 1885. He also served on both houses of the Virginia state legislature.

Randolph was the first editor-in-chief of the Richmond Planet, an African American newspaper published in Virginia. He held the position for two years before handing the reigns over to John Mitchell Jr. who would become the newspaper’s longtime editor. He also authored The Life of Rev. John Jasper, Pastor of Sixth Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Richmond, Va., from His Birth to the Present Time, with His Theory on the Rotation of the Sun.

Randolph died in 1919 in Danville, Virginia. In his obituary published in the Richmond Planet, he was noted as “one of the oldest practitioners at the Richmond bar” at the time of his death.