Reintroducing Robert Morris: Lawyer & Activist Exhibit Cover

We are excited to reintroduce Morris and his remarkable library with this new exhibit. Robert Morris (1825–1882) has long been known as the second Black person to become a lawyer in the United States. He was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1847. Morris was deeply involved in the 19th-century U.S. civil rights movement and constantly agitated for full and equal rights for people of color. His legal career included filing the first major school desegregation case in the country (Roberts v. City of Boston), representing fugitives from slavery, and serving as the go-to lawyer for Irish immigrants. 

Since our Spring 2017 exhibit, Robert Morris: Lawyer & Activist, almost thirty more of Morris’s books have been found in BC’s collections. After following his wife Catharine to the Catholic Church, Morris forged strong relationships with the young institution and early leaders like Father Robert Fulton. He donated a huge portion of his book collection to BC around 1882. Most of the books featured in this exhibit are from that donation and are on generous loan from the John J. Burns Library, Boston College. We also are proud to display two items from the Morris collection at the Canton Historical Society in Canton, Massachusetts. 

The exhibit was curated by Laurel Davis and Mary Sarah Bilder, Founders Professor of Law. It will remain on view into August 2023. The Rare Book Room is open on weekdays from 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. The exhibit catalog is available to download. For more about Morris, please see our website, Robert Morris: Civil Rights Lawyer & Antislavery Activist, at

Daniel R. Coquillette Rare Book Room


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