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24-Year-Old Single Mom Graduates Harvard With Law Degree: 'Let's Keep Beating Their Odds, Baby'

Briana Williams completed a final exam while in labor to get here. What's your excuse?

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Black Girl Magic alert: Briana Williams just took beating the odds to another level. The 24-year-old received her Harvard law degree last week, after giving birth in 2017 and becoming a single mother. Sis had a goal to accomplish and wasn't going to let anything keep her from doing just that.

Although a beautiful success story, Williams wants her 20,000 Instagram followers to understand the glamorous pictures don't nearly portray her story -- the road to get here was not an easy one. “To say that my last year of law school, with a newborn, and as a single mom was a challenge would be an understatement,” Williams told HuffPost.


I went into labor in April- during final exam period. I immediately requested an epidural so that my contractions wouldn’t interfere with my Family Law grade. And, with tears in my eyes, I finished it. This “biting the bullet” experience is quite quintessential of my time at Harvard. To say that my last year of law school, with a newborn, and as a single mom was a challenge would be an understatement. Some days I was so mentally and emotionally fatigued that I did not leave my bed. I struggled with reliable childcare. It was not atypical to see me rushing through Wasserstein to the Dean of Students’ office with Evelyn in her carriage, asking DOS can they keep her for a few until class was over. If not, she’d just have to come with me to class. Evie attended classes often. So I’m going to be honest with you guys.. I didnt think I could do it. I did not think that, at 24 years old, as a single mom, I would be able to get through one of the most intellectually rigorous and challenging positions of my life. It was hard. It hurt. Instagram can make peoples’ lives seem seamless, but this journey has been heartwrenching. However, I am happy to say that I DID do it. Today, Evelyn in my arms, with tears streaming down my face, I accepted my Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. At first, I was the anomaly of my [marginalized] community. Then, as a single mother, I became a statistic. Next, I pray that- for the sake of my baby, I will be an example. Evelyn- they said that because of you I wouldn’t be able to do this. Just know that I did this BECAUSE OF YOU. Thank you for giving me the strength and courage to be invincible. Let’s keep beating all their odds, baby. A post shared by Briana Williams, J.D. (@lovexbriana) on


"I’m going to be honest with you guys," Williams' Instagram caption reads. "I didnt think I could do it.
I did not think that, at 24 years old, as a single mom, I would be able to get through one of the most intellectually rigorous and challenging positions of my life. It was hard. It hurt. Instagram can make peoples’ lives seem seamless, but this journey has been heart wrenching."

The icing on the cake? Williams walked across the stage with her beautiful daughter, Evelyn, who was sporting a cap and gown just like her mommy.

We're not crying; you are!


Williams walked across the graduation stage with her adorable mini-me, Evelyn, the two of them wearing matching caps and gowns.
The first time I stepped on Harvard’s campus was for Admitted Students Weekend. Accompanied by family and close friends, I walked into a classroom of about 20 other students who'd also been accepted. I was afraid. What I would soon identify as "imposter syndrome" immediately hit me as I greeted other students who proudly wore name tags that exemplified their ivy league backgrounds. There must have been a look on my face because my dad came up behind me and whispered- "you scared!???" I'm a small-town girl from Atlanta. My mom has six children, and I was the first and only in the family to graduate from college. I went to college with one suitcase and one pair of shoes, holding on to a bible that my older sister had tucked away in my bag. I'd worked full-time as a waitress and bartender in New York to get by. Being in such an intellectually stimulating/ rigorous environment was not only intimidating- I was scared shitless. "Heck no. man!" Is what I responded. "Good," my dad said, "Because you got something they don't got- you're street smart. You're book smart AND you're street smart." During my time at HLS, I've realized how much truth there was to the statement. Despite the institution's structural issues, I found ways that I could appreciate coming from a disenfranchised background. I could look at the law through the lens of a black woman and (eventually), a financially independent single mother. I used this to my advantage. I made sure to engage in courses that contextualized the law with my blackness, femininity, and income strata. I joined organizations, clinics, and fellowships that would allow me to advocate on behalf of those who, like myself, had trouble navigating their way into higher education. I found a community, friends, and a platform in this. Now, I am happy to be joining a top law firm in Los Angeles, where I will not only be a member of the litigation department, but I will have the autonomy to undertake several pro bono opportunities. Daddy, I'm not scared anymore. We made it! A post shared by Briana Williams, J.D. (@lovexbriana) on

What's next for the modern day superwoman? Williams will return to her home state of California and be joining the litigation department at a Los Angeles law firm.

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Maya is an alumna of Hampton University who just wants justice for black folks. Follow her on Twitter & IG @MJBoddie.