Hong Yeng Chang’s case is obscure to laypeople, but well-known to students of the law.
Chang was among the many Chinese students who migrated to the United States in the 19th century to pursue an education. He obtained his undergraduate degree at Yale University and went on to receive his law degree from Columbia University in 1886 (just years after passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act and at a time when anti-Asian sentiment was high throughout the country), as one of the nation’s first Asian American Ivy Leaguers.
Upon graduation, Chang applied to take the New York state bar exam, and was initially refused due to his race. However, after receiving special permission from the state Legislature, he took and passed the bar exam being — according to the New York Times reports of the era — the first Chinese immigrant to be licensed to practice law in the United States.