January 15, 2020

On Thursday, Jan. 30, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law will usher in Black History Month with an evening that acknowledges and celebrates the School’s past, present and future.

The program titled “Bending the Arc Toward Justice” will include a portrait unveiling of Detroit Mercy Law’s first known African American graduate, Henry H. Tarrant, who graduated in 1922, just ten years after the Law School opened its doors. Throughout his career, Tarrant, along with other black University of Detroit law graduates, was active in organizations that sought racial equality and justice.

In partnership with the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), the School will also introduce the Henry H. Tarrant Award for Black Student Excellence, a scholarship which will be presented to incoming black law students for their achievements prior to law school and for their potential as future leaders, influencers and activists.

“The history of African American lawyers in Detroit is one of barriers and tribulations. Yet from this, remarkable achievements and strides in breaking down those barriers were made. Tarrant’s career exemplifies that history,” said Detroit Mercy Law Dean Phyllis L. Crocker. “We are proud to honor the legacy he and others have left behind while supporting a meaningful future for current and aspiring law students of color.”

In addition, Godfrey Dillard, a civil rights leader and the attorney who represented University of Detroit BLSA in its discrimination lawsuit against the law school and university in the early 1980s, will deliver remarks. He will discuss his career and reflect on the lawsuit.

 “We don’t achieve progress without honest conversation,” said Crocker. “We are proud of the dedication of our alumni, our students and our entire community to support and lead equity, diversity and inclusion efforts.”

The event also serves as the official launch of the Detroit Mercy Law Association of Black Law Alumni (ABLA). Founded by Wayne County Probate Judge Terrance A. Keith, a 1984 graduate, ABLA aims to foster lifelong relationships between the Law School and black alumni; ensure black law students are able to thrive; and facilitate the successful transition of black law students into the legal profession through mentorship.

“Recalling the challenges of law school and practicing law, I, along with my fellow alumni, want to do whatever we can to provide the support and resources to students and future alumni to ensure their success,” said Keith. “Diversity, equity and inclusion are essential to educating lawyers and ensuring that the legal profession becomes more representative of our communities.”

Bending the Arc Toward Justice runs from 5 to 7 p.m. in the atrium of the School of Law’s Riverfront Campus, 651 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit. The event is free and open to all. Registration is required at Questions may be directed to April Ellison at or 313-596-0202.