Violet King

Violet King

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

In her Grade 12 yearbook, Violet King wrote down a simple dream: to become a criminal lawyer. Except in the 1940s, when King was in high school in Alberta, a Black woman becoming a lawyer was not a simple dream. If she was going to do it, she would be the first. King didn’t have anyone to look to as a model of how to accomplish her dream. King’s ambition didn’t have precedent. In many cases, that fact deters a dream. As the old adage goes: “If you can see it, you can be it.” King didn’t have to see her goals to believe she could achieve them. Now that’s inspiring as hell.

King enrolled in the University of Alberta in 1948, becoming the only Black female student of her class. During school, she became an advocate for other live-in students and even chased off a group of 40 men playing bagpipes who were wreaking havoc on campus. She was also the VP of the school’s student union. When King graduated, she became the first Black person in Alberta to graduate law school and be called to the bar. With that achievement, she became the first Black female lawyer in Canadian history. An impossible dream, realized.

Throughout her career, King advocated for immigrants, the less fortunate, and for workplace rights for women. She worked for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration in Ottawa before moving to New York, then Chicago with her husband and daughter to become the first woman named to a senior executive position with the YMCA. Until her death in 1982, Violet King bulldozed the way for the Black women who came after her to have a path to follow and to have a precedent to believe in so their yearbook dreams could maybe, one day, be simple.

Source refinery29

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