Photo by Felix Sanchez.

Photo by Felix Sanchez.

On Nov. 6, 2018, Houston area voters chose Black Girl Magic.

That’s what a group of 19 African American women lawyers was labeled when they came together the year before to change the Harris County courts. They had all practiced before the various courts – family, criminal, trial – and thought the moment was right to expand the life lessons of those on the bench. All 19 took the bench in Harris County in early 2019. Seventeen took seats previously held by Republicans. Two others ran for statewide office, and though they lost their races held on to their county judge seats.

We met the judges in Houston in late 2019, and have followed them as best as Covid-19 allowed, as they held court via Zoom. We interviewed them individually to showcase important conversations that often go unheard in a time of so much noise.

Our first piece features Judge Angela Graves-Harrington, who’d say fortune seems to follow her. And if it does, it might have something to do with her courage and a core set of values about life, about faith, about the law that seems to have gotten lost. A judge ordered her client to be jailed for 180 days for not forcing her kids to call their Dad. Graves-Harrington ran for his seat and now sits in his chair.

We gathered this fall at Thurgood Marshall Law School near downtown Houston to create a portrait of Black Girl Magic. An iconic image taken by the Harris County Democratic Party before the election was hung in the bedrooms of girls and offices of women to enforce the power, complexity, determination and difference of The 19. We hope our update, taken by Felix Sanchez, inspires as you look at these women now working to improve people’s lives through their work on the bench. Today, when a girl looks through the courtroom window into a land she’s never before seen, she sees someone who looks like her.

Pictured above, from left to right, are: Judge Ramona Franklin, Judge Germaine Tanner, Judge Sandra Peake, Judge Linda Marie Dunson, Judge Erica Hughes, Judge Ronnisha Bowman, Judge Sharon M. Burney, Judge Dedra Davis, Judge Tonya Jones, Judge Latosha Lewis Payne, Judge Toria J. Finch, Judge Michelle Moore, Judge Angela Graves-Harrington, Judge Shannon Baldwin, Judge Lori Chambers Gray, Judge LaShawn A. Williams. Missing for the shoot were Judge Lucia Bates and Judge Maria T. Jackson. The 19th, Judge Cassandra Y. Holleman, died of pancreatic cancer after one month on the bench.

Published profiles of the judges now include:

About the author: Katrina Dewey ( is the founder and CEO of Lawdragon, which she and her partners created as the new media company for the world’s lawyers. She has written about lawyers and legal affairs for 30 years, and is a noted legal editor, creator of numerous lawyer recognition guides and expert on lawyer branding. She is based in Venice, Calif., and New York. She is also the founder of Lawdragon Campus, which covers law students and law schools. View our staff page