Judge Elreta Alexander and Civil Rights Activism

Elreta Melton Alexander became the first African-American woman to graduate from Columbia Law School.   In 1947, she was the first African-American woman to practice law in the State of North Carolina, and subsequently, in 1968, became the first African-American woman to become an elected district court judge.  Despite these accomplishments, Alexander is little known to scholars outside of her hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina.

Dr. Virginia Summey not only looks at Judge Alexander’s impressive “firsts,” but also analyzes the importance of Alexander’s achievements against the backdrop of the civil rights movement in the U.S. South. The civil rights movement consisted of a variety of individuals who used many different strategies to achieve their goals.  While not directly participating in civil rights marches and demonstrations herself, Alexander used her professional achievements and social status to advocate for those who lacked a voice in the southern legal system.  Alexander challenged existing laws and used her legal experience to integrate professional spaces across the state.  This presentation examines how Judge Elreta Alexander, and women like her, impacted the civil rights era and led to her place in North Carolina history. 

Lectern, microphone, digital projector