Beyond the Book: THE LIFE OF ELRETA MELTON ALEXANDER

Graphic for Beyond the Book with Virginia Summey on Saturday, January 28 at 4 pm at BookmarksJoin us for Beyond the Book, a new Bookmarks Lecture Series, featuring The Life of Elreta Melton Alexander: Activism Within the Courts with Virginia L. Summey on Saturday, January 28th at 4:00 pm!

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.

This is a free event. Each person attending the event must have a registration or book ticket. Registration options:

  • Free registration: Attendance to the book talk
  • Book ticket: Attendance to the book talk and a copy of The Life of Elreta Melton Alexander: Activism Within the Courts

Additional books will be available for purchase at the event.

Click here to register for tickets.

About the Book

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.

About the Author

Virginia L. Summey is a historian of the U.S. South and Faculty Fellow in Lloyd International Honors College at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her research and areas of expertise include North Carolina history, political and legal history, African American history, and Women's history. She received her B.A. in Political Science from Catawba College, her M.A. in History and post-baccalaureate in Women's and Gender Studies from the University of Montana, and her Ph.D. in U.S. History and post-baccalaureate in African American and African Diaspora Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro(Courtesy of Summey's website).


Event date: 
Saturday, January 28, 2023 - 4:00pm
Event address: 
634 W 4TH ST SUITE 110
WINSTON SALEM, NC 27101-2730