Civil Rights Lawyer & Antislavery Activist

Robert Morris rose from humble origins in Salem, Massachusetts to become a civil rights leader in Boston and the country’s second African American lawyer. He advocated for integrated schools, militias, and public spaces, and supported equal rights for women. He represented alleged fugitive slaves and built a law practice with Irish immigrants constituting a significant portion of his client base. His circle included Frederick Douglass, writer, orator, and activist; Charles Sumner, antislavery lawyer and senator; Harriet and Lewis Hayden, the formerly enslaved antislavery activists and famed Boston conductors of the Underground Railroad; and leaders of a young Boston College, including early president Robert Fulton, S.J. Morris maintained close ties with his siblings and family in Salem, while nurturing a loving relationship with his wife, Catharine, and their children. Morris practiced law in Boston with his son Robert Jr. until his death in December 1882.