Black History: Special Delivery!!


Violette Anderson (1882 – 1937)

Violette Neatley Anderson (1882 – 1937) was the first African American female attorney to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. Born in London, England, her family moved to Chicago, IL when she was a child. After graduating from high school in 1899, she continued her education by attending the Chicago Athenaeum and the Chicago Seminar of Sciences. In 1903 she married Albert Johnson. The two quickly divorced. In 1906, she married Dr. Daniel H. Anderson.

Before attending Chicago Law school she worked as a court reporter for 15 years. Graduating in 1902, she passed the bar exam and then started a successful private law practice; making her one of the first women of any race to establish a private law practice in the state of Illinois.

In 1922 she was selected as an assistant prosecutor in Chicago; making her the first African American and the first woman to hold this role. She was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1926.

Anderson was also active in various community organizations such as the Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, Chicago Council of Social Agencies, and the Cook County Bar Association. She also served as the 8th president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated. Anderson was influential in the passing of the Bankhead-Jones Act in 1936. This act provided poor sharecroppers and tenant farmers with low-interest loans to support their efforts to become landowners. Violette N. Anderson died in 1937. In her will, she left her vacation home in Idlewild, Michigan to her sorority. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. continues to honor her memory by celebrating, “Violette Anderson Day” annually during the month of April.