Harvard Law School is currently hosting an exhibit on the relationship between the African-American community and the Massachusetts courts from the colonial period to the present day. Long Road to Justice, assembled by the Justice George Lewis Ruffin Society, combines historical artifacts, court records, text and images to depict the compelling cases and courageous individuals who led the struggle to achieve racial justice in the Massachusetts courts. The exhibit is available for public viewing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Jan. 14 in the lobby of Pound Hall.

“By seeking to bring to life struggles for racial justice waged in the courts of the Commonwealth and the history of black jurists in Massachusetts, the exhibit is making accessible to the public important information about which people–including well-schooled attorneys–are often unaware,” said Professor Randall Kennedy, who helped bring the Long Road to Justice exhibit to HLS.

The exhibit has traveled to courts and libraries throughout Massachusetts for the past two years, with HLS being the first academic institution on its itinerary. Through pictures and text, the exhibit tells the story of African Americans in the Massachusetts justice system by focusing on three areas: how the Massachusetts courts handled the issue of slaves and slavery; how African Americans have struggled to gain equal opportunities through the courts; and how African American participation in the court system as attorneys, judges, litigants and jurors has evolved over the centuries.

In 1883, Ruffin–the first African-American graduate of HLS–was appointed to the Charlestown Municipal Court, becoming the first African-American judge in Massachusetts. It was 75 years after his appointment that the next African-American ascended to the bench in Massachusetts.