Paper Title

The Career of Elreta Melton Alexander: A Theoretical Approach

Location

Room 220, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

Start Date

April 2016

End Date

April 2016

Keywords

Black Marxism, performance, intersectionality, assemblage, judgeships, civil rights, North Carolina, African American, legal history

Abstract

This paper will explore the education and career of groundbreaking attorney, Elreta Melton Alexander (1919 – 1998). After becoming the first African-American woman to graduate from Columbia Law School in 1945, Alexander later became the first African-American woman to practice law in the state of North Carolina, and the first in the nation to serve as an elected district court judge. This work takes a theoretical approach to exploring Alexander’s life and career. Black Marxism, performance theory, and theories of intersectionality and assemblage, when applied to Alexander’s life, allow an examination as to how her multiple identities as an educated, African-American female attorney interweave to form a holistic view of her unique life.

As a member of the black middle class, and a graduate of an Ivy League law school, Alexander was undoubtedly apart of the black bourgeoisie. In the courtroom, she consciously performed to highlight the contradictions inherent in a segregated society. Alexander’s multiple identities of race and gender were also apparent as they intersected in her campaigns for district and North Carolina Supreme Court judgeships. These theoretical perspectives will help me analyze how Alexander navigated her life and career in the civil rights era South.

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Apr 2nd, 10:30 AM Apr 2nd, 11:45 AM

The Career of Elreta Melton Alexander: A Theoretical Approach

Room 220, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

This paper will explore the education and career of groundbreaking attorney, Elreta Melton Alexander (1919 – 1998). After becoming the first African-American woman to graduate from Columbia Law School in 1945, Alexander later became the first African-American woman to practice law in the state of North Carolina, and the first in the nation to serve as an elected district court judge. This work takes a theoretical approach to exploring Alexander’s life and career. Black Marxism, performance theory, and theories of intersectionality and assemblage, when applied to Alexander’s life, allow an examination as to how her multiple identities as an educated, African-American female attorney interweave to form a holistic view of her unique life.

As a member of the black middle class, and a graduate of an Ivy League law school, Alexander was undoubtedly apart of the black bourgeoisie. In the courtroom, she consciously performed to highlight the contradictions inherent in a segregated society. Alexander’s multiple identities of race and gender were also apparent as they intersected in her campaigns for district and North Carolina Supreme Court judgeships. These theoretical perspectives will help me analyze how Alexander navigated her life and career in the civil rights era South.