Lila Fenwick

Lila Althea Fenwick (May 24, 1932 – April 4, 2020) was an American lawyer, human rights advocate, and United Nations official. She was the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Law School.[1][2][3]

Lila Fenwick
Born24 May 1932 Edit this on Wikidata
Manhattan Edit this on Wikidata
Died4 April 2020 Edit this on Wikidata (aged 87)
Manhattan Edit this on Wikidata
Alma mater
OccupationLawyer, human rights defender Edit this on Wikidata

Fenwick was born in Manhattan, New York City, on May 24, 1932.[1] Her parents, John and Hilda Fenwick, had immigrated to the United States from Trinidad.[1] She received her bachelor's degree from Barnard College in 1953 before enrolling at Harvard Law School.[1]

A student in the class of 1956, Fenwick matriculated into the school's fourth class that admitted women.[2] She then completed her studies at the London School of Economics.[1]

During her career, Fenwick was a private practice lawyer and later became chief of the U.N. Human Rights Section. She held the position until her retirement.[2][4] She also co-founded the Foundation for Research and Education in Sickle Cell Disease with Doris Wethers and Yvette Fay Francis-McBarnette.[5]

Fenwick died at her home in Manhattan on April 4, 2020, from complications of COVID-19 at the age of 87.[1][5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Griffin, Kelsey J. (2020-04-21). "Lila Fenwick, First Black Female Graduate of Harvard Law School, Dies at 87". Harvard Crimson. Archived from the original on 2020-04-24. Retrieved 2020-04-24.
  2. ^ a b c "200 years of race at HLS". The Harvard Law Record. 2003-02-19. Retrieved 2020-04-18.
  3. ^ Coquillette, Daniel R. On the battlefield of merit : Harvard Law School, the first century. Kimball, Bruce A., 1951-. Cambridge, Massachusetts. ISBN 978-0-674-08906-8. OCLC 925305783.
  4. ^ Sollors, Werner (1993). Blacks at Harvard: A Documentary History of African-American Experience At Harvard and Radcliffe. NYU Press. ISBN 9780814739778.
  5. ^ a b Green, Penelope (2020-04-13). "Lila Fenwick, Who Broke a Barrier at Harvard Law, Dies at 87". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-18.