Unsung hero: As a pioneering attorney and judge, Elreta Alexander-Ralston left indelible mark on civil rights, criminal justice reform

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Law, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2022-01-20 19:21Z by Steven

Unsung hero: As a pioneering attorney and judge, Elreta Alexander-Ralston left indelible mark on civil rights, criminal justice reform

The News & Record
Greensboro, North Carolina
2021-12-19

Nancy McLaughlin

Historian and UNCG professor Virginia Summey’s biography of Elreta Melton Alexander-Ralston goes back to the history-making judge’s childhood, including her years at Dudley High School and N.C. A&T.
News & Record archives

GREENSBORO — Former attorney and District Court Judge Elreta Alexander-Ralston was known for the sheer force of her personality and style.

Outspoken. Flamboyant. Fierce. Unforgettable. Bold. She had an air of authority about her that left no doubt who was in charge.

And oh the stories, said historian and UNCG fellow Virginia Summey, the author of a new biography of the history-making judge.

“I can’t imagine I will have as much fun on another book,” Summey said.

Summey was watching an oral-history interview with Alexander-Ralston when she heard the judge say she hired legendary attorney F. Lee Bailey to defend her over a judicial complaint.

“She would say something in her oral history and I could say, that could not be true,” Summey said. “But it was.”

With Bailey, it was the drama of her driving to Massachusetts and showing up at his front door, Summey said.

“I called him right before he died and he was like, ‘Oh yeah, Elreta…,” Summey said, of the story he would go on to tell about her hiring him.

The Life of Elreta Melton Alexander: Activism within the Courts” is available through pre-order from the University of Georgia Press and includes her years at Dudley High School and N.C. A&T. Alexander-Ralston built her legal reputation as Elreta Alexander.

Alexander-Ralston died in 1998 and is remembered for an unusual career pioneering legal reform among an impressive list of firsts, including the first Black woman in the nation to sit on the bench who was elected by voters…

Read the entire article here.

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The Devil’s Half Acre: The Untold Story of How One Woman Liberated the South’s Most Notorious Slave Jail

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Slavery, United States, Virginia, Women on 2022-01-20 02:29Z by Steven

The Devil’s Half Acre: The Untold Story of How One Woman Liberated the South’s Most Notorious Slave Jail

Seal Press (an imprint of Basic Books)
2022-04-12
352 pages
Hardcover ISBN-13: 9781541675636
eBook ISBN-13: 9781541675629
Audiobook ISBN-13: 9781549193354

Kristen Green

The inspiring true story of an enslaved woman who liberated an infamous slave jail and transformed it into one of the nation’s first HBCUs

In The Devil’s Half Acre, New York Times bestselling author Kristen Green draws on years of research to tell the extraordinary and little-known story of young Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman who blazed a path of liberation for thousands. She was forced to have the children of a brutal slave trader and live on the premises of his slave jail, known as the “Devil’s Half Acre.” When she inherited the jail after the death of her slaveholder, she transformed it into “God’s Half Acre,” a school where Black men could fulfill their dreams. It still exists today as Virginia Union University, one of America’s first Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

A sweeping narrative of a life in the margins of the American slave trade, The Devil’s Half Acre brings Mary Lumpkin into the light. This is the story of the resilience of a woman on the path to freedom, her historic contributions, and her enduring legacy.

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The Life of Elreta Melton Alexander: Activism within the Courts

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Law, Monographs, United States, Women on 2022-01-19 03:08Z by Steven

The Life of Elreta Melton Alexander: Activism within the Courts

University of Georgia Press
2022-05-01
224 pages
Illustrations: 11 b&w
Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in
Hardcover ISBN: 9-780-8203-6192-5
Paperback ISBN: 9-780-8203-6193-2

Virginia L. Summey, Historian, Author, and Faculty Fellow
Lloyd International Honors College, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

This book explores the life and contributions of groundbreaking attorney, Elreta Melton Alexander Ralston (1919-98). In 1945 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 in 1968 she became the first African American woman to become an elected district court judge. Despite her accomplishments, Alexander is little known to scholars outside of her hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina. Her life and career deserve recognition, however, not just because of her impressive lists of “firsts,” but also owing to her accomplishments during the civil rights movement in the U.S. South.

While Alexander did not actively participate in civil rights marches and demonstrations, she used her professional achievements and middle-class status to advocate for individuals who lacked a voice in the southern legal system. Virginia L. Summey argues that Alexander was integral to the civil rights movement in North Carolina as she, and women like her, worked to change discriminatory laws while opening professional doors for other minority women. Using her professional status, Alexander combatted segregation by demonstrating that Black women were worthy and capable of achieving careers alongside white men, thereby creating environments in which other African Americans could succeed. Her legal expertise and ability to reach across racial boundaries made her an important figure in Greensboro history.

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Passing: A Film Discussion with Director/Writer Rebecca Hall and Actresses Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga

Posted in Interviews, Live Events, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos, Women on 2022-01-19 03:07Z by Steven

Passing: A Film Discussion with Director/Writer Rebecca Hall and Actresses Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga

National Museum of African American History and Culture
Thursday, 2022-01-13 19:00-19:40 EST (Local Time); (Friday, 2022-01-14, 00:00-00:40Z)

Join us in the New Year for a virtual discussion with Netflix film Passing screenwriter and director Rebecca Hall, alongside actresses Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga. Based on Nella Larsen’s novel of the same name, Hall’s directorial debut explores not just racial identity but gender, class, the responsibilities of motherhood and the performance of femininity from the perspective of two Black women who choose to live on opposite sides of the color line in 1929 New York. For Rebecca Hall, creating Passing was a deeply personal journey, stemming from the discovery of her own family history. NMAAHC Curator Aaron Bryant will moderate the discussion. This program will be pre-recorded, and there will be no live Q & A. Passing is available now on Netflix.

Watch the discussion here.

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Black Americans on the Way to Sainthood: Henriette Delille

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Religion, Slavery, United States, Women on 2022-01-18 02:32Z by Steven

Black Americans on the Way to Sainthood: Henriette Delille

St. Charles Borromeo Church
Brooklyn, New York
2021-02-13

Josephine Dongbang

Henriette Delille, (1812-1862), founder of Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
“For the love of Jesus Christ, she had become the humble and devout servant of the slaves.”

Henriette Delille was born in 1812 in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a loving Catholic family. While Henriette was born a free woman, she was descended from an enslaved African woman and white slave owner. Thus, following the tradition of the females in her family, she was groomed to form a monogamous relationship with wealthy white men under the plaçage system. She was trained in French literature, music, and dance, and expected to attend balls to meet men who would enter into such civil unions. Most of these agreements often ended up with the men later marrying white women in “official” marriages and/or abandoning their promises of support for the women and their mixed-race children. As a devout Catholic, Henriette opposed such system, believing it went against the Catholic sacrament of marriage…

Read the entire article here.

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To a Dark Girl

Posted in Biography, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Religion, United States, Videos, Women on 2022-01-12 01:13Z by Steven

To a Dark Girl

North Star
Louisiana Public Broadcasting
Source: Louisiana Digital Media Archive
1985

Contributors:

  • Genevieve Stewart, Host
  • Sister Barbara Marie, Interviewee
  • Leslie Williams, Interviewee
  • Michelle Diaz, Interviewee

This episode of the series “North Star” from 1985 focuses on two intertwined stories related to the history of New Orleans in the 19th century: the quadroon balls held at the Orleans Ballroom, clandestine events where white men met free women of color, who would become their mistresses; the founding of the Sisters of the Holy Family, an African American congregation of Catholic nuns, by Henriette DeLille; and a visit to St. Mary’s Academy, the school run by the Sisters of the Holy Family, which was once located at the Orleans Ballroom. Host: Genevieve Stewart

Watch the video (00:14:20) here.

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“The Bluest Eye” and “Imitation of Life” (1934): Variations on a Theme (Maggie Tarmey)

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2022-01-11 21:51Z by Steven

“The Bluest Eye” and “Imitation of Life” (1934): Variations on a Theme (Maggie Tarmey)

Toni Morrison: A Teaching and Learning Resource Collection
2021-06-08

Maggie Tarmey

The following essay is written by student Maggie Tarmey, with edits by Amardeep Singh.

While the two appear quite different from one another, Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye and the 1934 film adaptation of Imitation of Life (directed by John Stahl and adapted from Fannie Hurst’s 1933 novel of the same name) share many similarities. The Bluest Eye follows a young, dark-skinned Black girl in a small Ohio town in 1940. This girl, named Pecola Breedlove, wants to have blue eyes. It is her number one desire, and she believes that blue eyes, and only blue eyes, will make her beautiful.

In contrast, Imitation of Life follows the story of a white widow, Bea, and her Black domestic servant, Delilah, as they start a business selling Delilah’s famous pancakes. Delilah has a daughter named Peola who is so light skinned that she passes for white. Peola struggles throughout the film with her identity. While these sound like two entirely different stories, they are really not so different. I would argue that these two works similar stories from rather different perspectives. The Bluest Eye tells the story of young girls struggling with colorism and white supremacy from a Black cultural perspective with a Black audience in mind, while Imitation of Life puts forward a sanitized, far less nuanced version of a similar narrative, one that is authored by white creators (Hurst and Stahl) and targeted to predominantly white audiences…

Red the entire essay here.

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Quadroon Balls | LFOLKS (1985)

Posted in History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Videos, Women on 2022-01-11 19:26Z by Steven

Quadroon Balls | LFOLKS (1985)

Louisiana Public Broadcasting
2022-01-05

This segment from the February 10, 1985, episode of the series “Folks” features Genevieve Stewart’s report on the history of the quadroon balls in 19th century New Orleans, clandestine events where white men met free women of color, who would become their mistresses. She visits the Orleans Ballroom at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel in the French Quarter, one of the possible sites of the quadroon balls. Stewart also interviews Clive Hardy, the archivist at the University of New Orleans, who discusses his research into the history of the quadroon balls. Host: Rob Hinton

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Overlooked No More: Si-lan Chen, Whose Dances Encompassed Worlds

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2022-01-11 15:56Z by Steven

Overlooked No More: Si-lan Chen, Whose Dances Encompassed Worlds

The New York Times
2021-05-27

Jennifer Wilson, Contributing Writer
The Nation

Si-lan Chen in 1944. A socialist, she approached dance as a way to build international solidarity.
Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY, ADAGP, Paris 2021; Telimage

This article is part of Overlooked, a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.

As a dancer and choreographer, she sought to represent a broad range of ethnic groups, but audiences often sexualized and exoticized her by focusing on her mixed race.

In 1945, the dancer Si-lan Chen sent a draft of her memoir to the writer Pearl S. Buck, with a letter asking for her thoughts on why she was struggling to get the attention of a publisher.

The problem, Buck explained, was that while Chen had dined with the Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek in revolutionary China, had been romanced by the poet Langston Hughes in Soviet Moscow, and had worked in Hollywood for the producer Joseph Mankiewicz, no one actually knew who she was.

The autobiography, Buck said, of a mixed-race girl growing up in Trinidad, studying ballet at the Bolshoi and choreographing films like “Anna and the King of Siam” (1946), was too focused on, well, her…

Read the entire article here.

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Lani Guinier drew on her Black and Jewish roots in a life of outspoken activism

Posted in Articles, Biography, Judaism, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, Social Justice, United States, Women on 2022-01-11 15:30Z by Steven

Lani Guinier drew on her Black and Jewish roots in a life of outspoken activism

Forward
2022-01-07

TaRessa Stovall

This undated file photo shows Lani Guinier(C), President Clinton’s nominee to head the U.S. Civil Rights office of the U.S.
LUKE FRAZZA/AFP via Getty Images

Lani Guinier, the daughter of a white Jewish mother and Black Panamanian father whose nomination by President Clinton to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice was opposed by mainstream Jewish organizations, died on Friday.

Guinier, who went on to become the first Black woman on the Harvard Law School faculty as well as its first woman of color given a tenured post, succumbed to complications from Alzheimer’s disease, according to The Boston Globe.

Carrie Johnson, who covers the Justice Department for National Public Radio, tweeted a message from Harvard Law School Dean John Manning confirming Guinier’s death and praising her.

“Her scholarship changed our understanding of democracy – of why and how the voices of the historically underrepresented must be heard and what it takes to have a meaningful right to vote,” Manning’s message said. The dean’s letter to the school community said she died surrounded by friends and family…

Read the entire article here.

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