Lena Olive Smith, born in 1885, came to Minnesota in 1907 with her mother and siblings. She received a law degree from Northwestern College of Law at the age of 21, the first African American Woman to receive a degree, and one of only nine African American attorneys to have practiced law in Minnesota between 1890 and 1927.She was the only African American woman attorney to practice in the 1920s and 1930s.
In 1925 she helped to found the Urban League and in 1930 was the first woman president of the NAACP. In 1939 she headed the Legal Redress Committee of the Minneapolis and St. Paul NAACP.
She defended Arthur Lee’s family in their effort to live in South Minneapolis, and challenged President Lotus D. Coffman’s efforts to keep dormitories segregated in 1931.
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