April 27, 2020
We mourn the loss of a trailblazer—Ms. Lila Fenwick. The Harvard Black Law Students Association (“HBLSA”) is deeply saddened by the passing of Ms. Fenwick, who was the first Black woman to graduate from Harvard Law School in 1956.
The child of Trinidadian immigrants and a graduate of Barnard College in New York, Ms. Fenwick attended HLS just three years after the Law School started admitting women in 1950. In 2003, she told the Harvard Law Bulletin that “I knew I was going to be a lawyer when I was a little girl…It never occurred to me that there were going to be any obstacles.” Despite the unforeseen obstacles faced because she was both black and a woman, she persevered—graduating from HLS in 1956. Post-graduation, Ms. Fenwick went on to attend the London School of Economics. She eventually began working at the United Nations in the Division of Human Rights—specializing in gender, racial, and religious discrimination among other things.
At a time when so much around is unpredictable, BLSA would like to recognize Ms. Fenwick for the barriers she broke at HLS and beyond, which opened the doors for so many Black women who aspired to be lawyers. Let Ms. Fenwick’s legacy serve as a reminder that regardless of the hurdles and unexpected challenges, we shall persevere like the giants who came before us. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Fenwick’s family and loved ones during this time.
To learn more about the life and career of Ms. Lila Fenwick, please read her obituary in The New York Times found here.