Achieving a legacy of inclusion for Black Revolutionary War Patriots
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Achieving a legacy of inclusion for Black Revolutionary War Patriots

Our decades-long pro bono client Lena Santos Ferguson drove change within the Daughters of the American Revolution that created a lasting legacy.

For 40 years, Hogan Lovells supported an extraordinary struggle. At its core was Lena Santos Ferguson, a Black woman from Washington, D.C., whose rightful membership to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) was denied in 1980 due to her race. This injustice ignited a flame, setting off a pro bono legal battle that would forever change the course of the DAR. The work was led by Sr. Counsel Emeritus Patricia Brannan and Sr. Counsel Joseph Hassett.

An unyielding fight for recognition

Brannan and Hassett's unyielding pro bono advocacy resulted in a significant settlement in 1984 between Ferguson and the DAR. Instead of money, she asked for and received full membership and the DAR’s promise to take action to help others: a study to reveal the names of overlooked Black Revolutionary War patriots; changes to rules and customs to erase barriers for Black and mixed-race women; and two scholarships to benefit students in Washington, D.C., where she resided.

This agreement was poised to create change within the DAR, since the descendants of those identified would be eligible for membership. 

While Ferguson died in 2004, a major step she demanded was accomplished in 2008 when the award-winning research was finally published, identifying up to 2,000 additional Black and mixed-race patriots. Her nephew, Maurice Barboza, carried on the fight they began together to ensure the integrity of the research. 

By 2021, a key element missing in the DAR’s reckoning with its past was acknowledgement of the role Ferguson played in creating change in the organization. Hogan Lovells undertook the representation of Barboza, to advocate for a fuller and franker recognition of Ferguson’s contribution. In 2023, the DAR modified its website to appropriately recognize Ferguson. The scholarship was increased and named for her. Her legacy is now immortalized in a plaque in the garden at DAR headquarters in Washington, D.C.

A testament to persistence

Ferguson's journey became more than just a personal victory—it stands as a testament to  the power of persistence in the fight against racial injustice. Her legacy is a beacon of hope in the pursuit of equality.

For her dedication to Ferguson's cause, Brannan received a Wiley A. Branton Outstanding Achievement Award from our co-counsel the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. As she was honored, Brannan was supported by other trailblazers of our pro bono practice who paved the way for lasting change, including John Ferren, Joe Hassett, Jack Keeney, Walter Smith, and Allen Snyder.

At Hogan Lovells, our commitment to justice is unyielding. We will continue to fight for progress and fair recognition of those who fight for change. We remain steadfast in our dedication to justice and equality.


40 years

of pro bono advocacy for Lena Ferguson and her legacy


Black, Native American,
and mixed heritage Revolutionary War patriots now recognized by the DAR


will mark the 250th year of American Independence