NC Central School of Law one of 6 at HBCUs in the country; a legacy that started in 1939

Akilah Davis Image
Saturday, February 3, 2024
NCCU's School of Law works to preserve its history
There are only six HBCU Law Schools and North Carolina Central University is part of that small group

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Much of North Carolina Central University's School of Law archives are boxed up inside a storage closet in the back of the library, but won't be for long.

Professor Nichelle Perry has taken up digitizing the original documents, which date back to the 1940s, calling it a passion project.

"They need to be preserved, but they also need to be shared. We need to show our history," said Perry, who is also director of the law library. "The name of the school then was the North Carolina College for Negroes. I think we forget that, but that's where we came from."

There are only six HBCU Law Schools and North Carolina Central University is part of that small group. Perry is passionate about making sure students know the university's history.

"The whole reason why we are in existence, and this is a painful truth, is we weren't allowed to attend UNC Chapel Hill. There was a strict no-admissions policy for African Americans," she said.

Robert Bond was the first student to enroll in the law program in 1939 and among the first to graduate. By the year 1960, the program's enrollment numbers increased. The North Carolina Board of Higher Education recommended phasing out the law school. The board argued the move could save money if Black enrollment at UNC Chapel Hill was increased. Campaigns were launched in response to the recommendation and the school remained.

According to Perry, many graduates stay in North Carolina and work in the courthouses pictured on the walls of the library. It's where legacies are created.

"My father was a graduate of NCCU School of Law in 1989. He passed away when I was younger," said Charlotte native and third-year law student Amber Craft. "I was four years old. I didn't know him. This was a good way to see what his life was like. I want to understand the community I'd be advocating for. I like being the hands and feet more so, but also being able to one day write the law."

Many alumni go on to do great things. The Honorable Judge Josephine Kerr Davis is a class of 2003 School of Law graduate who credits NCCU for her success.

"I think one of the misconceptions is HBCU's produce second-tier attorneys or second-tier students," said Judge Davis.

You can find her on any given day on the bench inside the Durham County Courthouse. Davis is a Bull City native living her dreams and administering justice by serving the community that raised her.

"I get to drive home each day and look to my left and see NCCU. It keeps me humble," she said. "It lets me know those years of studying were for a time as this."

In March, NCCU's School of Law will celebrate its 85th anniversary. The program started with just one student, but today current enrollment sits at 418 students.

RELATED | Fayetteville native is one of youngest to graduate from NCCU's law program

WATCH | New documentary focuses on financial health in Black community | Watch 'Our America: In the Black'