Burns Library - The Robert Morris Collection

"From humble origins to the country's second African American lawyer"

Robert Morris rose from humble origins in Salem, Massachusetts to become a civil rights leader in Boston and the country’s second African American lawyer. He advocated for integrated schools, militias, and public spaces, and supported equal rights for women. He represented alleged fugitive slaves and built a law practice with Irish immigrants constituting a significant portion of his client base. His circle included Frederick Douglass, writer, orator, and activist; Charles Sumner, antislavery lawyer and senator; Harriet and Lewis Hayden, the formerly enslaved antislavery activists and famed Boston conductors of the Underground Railroad; and leaders of a young Boston College, including early president Robert Fulton, S.J. In May 2015, many of Morris's books that came to Boston College after his death were transferred to the John J. Burns Library. The books were identified and catalogued as the Morris collection. This effort to make the Morris library discoverable led to a 2017 exhibit at the Boston College Law Library. (Boston College Law Library, "Robert Morris: Civil Rights Lawyer & Antislavery Activist" / Photo: Exhibit catalog for 2017 exhibit on Morris and his library in the Daniel R. Coquillette Rare Book Room, Boston College Law Library. )