Three Native American nations—the Ojibwa (Chippewa), Odawa (Ottawa), and Bodewadini (Potawatomi)—subsequently granted certain lands for use of the University of Michigan and by the end of the 19th century, Michigan was the largest and most generously supported public university in America and already a leader in graduate education.

The University of Michigan Law School, one of the oldest law schools in the nation, was founded in 1859. But unlike other highly selective law schools established in that era, admission was never restricted to the privileged. When Gabriel Hargo graduated from the Law School in 1870, Michigan—then the largest law school in the country—became the second American university to confer a law degree on an African American. 

That same year, Michigan was the first major law school to admit a woman, and in 1871, graduate Sarah Killgore became the first woman with a law degree in the nation to be admitted to the bar; by 1890, Michigan had graduated more women than any other law school. That commitment to access and diversity joined an equally powerful commitment to excellence, which continues to this day.

The Law School has long held an international reputation. In 1878, the first Japanese students graduated. During Cooley’s deanship, the School took pride in being open to all persons literate in English, including over 80 subjects of the Emperor of Japan, who were sent to Ann Arbor as a part of the opening of that empire to external influence.

The University of Michigan is one of the world’s largest and finest public universities. Generous support from the people of Michigan over many years was essential to creating this outstanding institution, and Michigan Law’s thousands of graduates have supported the School since the early 20th Century, when President Harry Hutchins developed a national alumni network. Nowadays the Law School is now funded almost entirely through tuition and private giving.