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16 Nat'l Black L.J. 109 (1998-2000)
Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: The Legacy of Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, A

handle is hein.journals/natblj16 and id is 123 raw text is: A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS:
THE LEGACY OF
SADIE TANNER MOSSELL ALEXANDER
Damon T. Hewitt
Although we are all familiar with the saying, A picture is worth a
thousand words, it was not until last year that I grasped the substantive
meaning of these words. As I roamed the halls during my first week as a
student at the University of Pennsylvania Law School,* I could not help
but notice the large portraits on display in the classrooms and hallways.
They depicted former deans and professors of the Law School, Penn-
sylvania statesmen, and founding fathers of the American legal system-
all white males. Then one day, I saw a portrait whose eyes sensed my
unease and calmed me. These eyes belonged to Sadie Tanner Mossell Al-
exander. The only African American woman to be immortalized in a por-
trait at the Law School, she bore a resemblance more similar to that of a
kindly grandmother than a great legal figure.
Seeing her picture on the wall, I knew that Sadie Alexander must have
been a pioneer of some sort. However, it was not until much later that I
would fully appreciate her legacy. Born January 2, 1898, Dr. Alexander
was a member of one of America's most prominent black families. Her
grandfather was Bishop Benjamin Tucker Tanner of the African Methodist
Episcopal Church. The renowned expatriate painter, Henry Ossawa Tan-
ner, was her uncle. Dr. Alexander's father, Aaron A. Mossell (Class of
1888), was the first African American to graduate from the University of
Pennsylvania Law School. She was married to the late Honorable Ray-
mond Pace Alexander, the first Black judge on the Philadelphia Common
Pleas Court, with whom she shared a law practice for twenty-six years. She
also played an important role in her husband's success on the City Council.
The couple's home was a haven for Black intellectual thought and social
activism. But Sadie Alexander never lived in anyone's shadow. Her per-
sonal accomplishments made her a legend in her own right.
Dr. Alexander was a woman of many firsts. A native Philadelphian,
she began her brilliant academic career by earning a Bachelor of Science
degree with honors from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed
her undergraduate studies in only three years, graduating as one of the
university's most distinguished alumnae. In 1921, Dr. Alexander became
the second Black woman in the country to earn a Ph.D. degree and the first
to do so in economics. She was the first Black woman to receive a law
degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School (Class of 1927),
where she was a member of the Law Review Bd. Dr. Alexander eventually
became the first Black woman to be admitted to the bar in the Common-
* Every spring, the University of Pennsylvania Black Law Students Association hosts a con-
ference in the name of Dr. Sadie Alexander. For information, please contact U-Penn. BLSA.

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