Cassandra Maxwell

Black and white photograph of Cassandra Maxwell

Cassandra Maxwell. Image from 2002 South Carolina African American History Calendar.

( abt 1911 - 1974) She was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Her father, John Moreau Maxwell, was a successful grocer, and he intended for his children to carry on the family business. However, Maxwell pursued higher education, graduating from Howard University’s School of Law. She returned to her birthplace of South Carolina, passing the South Carolina bar exam, and subsequently became the first African American woman to pass and be admitted to the South Carolina bar.

Maxwell relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, Dr. James Hope Birnie, a biology professor at Morehouse College, and set up a law practice. While there, she joined the Pennsylvania Bar and began yet another practice and expanded her opportunities for advocacy, and pursued opportunities that allowed her a prominent voice, thus breaking barriers and helping the lives she fought so persistently to improve.