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Liberia’s First Female Attorney - Angie Brooks '49 

Angie BrooksIn 1940s Liberia, women of the small African nation were expected to do housework and care for children. A career in law was unheard of. After getting married as a teenager, Angie Brooks had other plans that would take her all the way to Shaw University, and eventually all over the world.

After a divorce following a short marriage, Brooks was determined to further her education. As it so happened, Brooks’ pastor had a friend who worked at Shaw, and he convinced him to help admit Brooks and get her a scholarship.

Brooks arrived in Raleigh with no money and no connections to a world where segregation was a part of daily life for people of color. Growing up in Liberia, a country founded by former American slaves and run almost exclusively by black people, this was a shock to Brooks. During her first experience riding a city bus, she was forced to the back. She was greatly disturbed by this experience and refused to use public transportation for the remainder of her time in Raleigh.

While a student, Brooks worked hard to earn her degree – not only in the classroom – but to pay her bills as well. She did odd jobs cooking, washing dishes, scrubbing floors, and doing laundry to eat.

Brooks was proud of her hard work and embraced her story of working blue-collar jobs to pay her way through school. “I’m not ashamed to admit it,” she told Ebony in a 1970 interview.

Brooks earned her degree in social science from Shaw in 1949. After graduating, she headed to the University of Wisconsin to study law. In 1953, she became the first female lawyer in Liberia to be admitted to that country’s bar, and soon began a successful career as a diplomat. In 1970, she became the first African woman to serve as The President of the United Nations General Assembly, a position voted for by General Assembly representatives on a yearly basis. As President, Brooks presided over the sessions of the General Assembly.

In 1973, Brooks became the first female to be appointed to Liberia’s Supreme Court. To this day, Brooks is still the only female African to ever be elected president of the General Assembly. This Women’s History Month, let’s celebrate all she accomplished for Shaw, her country, and women everywhere.