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Biographical Sketches and Bibliographies of the First African Americans on the North Carolina Bench


In February 2019, Campbell Law School dedicated the First African Americans on the North Carolina Bench Display to its faculty, students, and guests of the law school. Using newspaper clippings, photographs, government documents, and other ephemera, the Display tells the story of the first African Americans appointed or elected to North Carolina state and federal courts in a timeline format. The Display is currently housed on the first floor of the Law School. The Law School has also made portable banners so the copies of the Display can travel throughout the area. Last summer, the banners were displayed at the City of Raleigh Museum, and plans are in place to display the banners in other venues around the city in the upcoming year.

The Display is both a timeline and a biography of each judge's life, up to and after their time on the bench. Pictures, newspaper articles, letters, and government documents are used to show major events in each judge's life. Most articles and ephemera came from open source digital databases, although some had to be pulled from the State Library of North Carolina and the State Archives of North Carolina. Our search was broad, and we ended up collecting many more articles than we needed. After the Display was completed, we decided the next step was to organize everything we found into a single bibliography.

The following bibliography consists of the newspaper articles and government documents we used to create both the permanent and traveling Displays. Most of the articles can be found on the open source North Carolina Digital Newspaper Collection and in the State Library and State Archives. Some articles were retrieved using the Law Library's subscription newspaper platforms, such as Newsbank and the North Carolina Collection at Newspapers.com.Finally, both Judge Elreta Alexander-Ralston and Judge Sammie Chess, Jr., have online archives of their papers, photographs, and personal effects. Judge Alexander's papers are available at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Library. Judge Chess's photographs and ephemera can be found at the High Point Museum.

Listed below in alphabetical order are the names of each African American judge, the North Carolina court to which they were appointed or elected, a brief biographical sketch, and a bibliography of relevant newspaper articles and government documents.