Barbara Aronstein Black, dean of the Columbia University Law School, was the first woman named to head one of the nation's leading law schools. A Columbia Law School alumna, she was appointed to the George Welwood Murray professorship in legal history at her alma mater in 1984. Less than two years later, after Columbia Law Dean Benno Schmidt, Jr., accepted the presidency of Yale University, Black was asked to become head of the Columbia Law School.
Always a good student, she went to Columbia Law from Brooklyn College, she says, primarily because her father and two brothers were in law. At Columbia she met Professor Charles L. Black, Jr., whom she married in 1954. In 1956, she left Columbia to begin raising their family.
Nearly ten years later, she returned to academia when she began studying for the doctorate in history at Yale University. In 1974 she became lecturer in history at Yale. Two years later she was named assistant professor of history, and, in 1979, she was promoted to associate professor of law.
Among her many accomplishments, she has been president of the American Legal History Society and a member of the board of trustees of the Law and Society Association, served as editor of the Columbia Law Review, and been a member of the editorial board for Law and History Review. A recipient of the Federal Bar Association Prize of Columbia Law School, Dean Black was awarded the honorary degree Doctor of Laws by New York University in 1986.