Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Scene of the Crime: Albion Tourgée and the “Invisible Empire” in Orange County

May 6, 2023 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

May 6 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

This program is free and open to the public.


Albion Tourgée (1838-1905) is a nationally important civil rights figure, a former Union solider who came to North Carolina after the Civil War to help realize the promise of democracy for the state’s newly emancipated Black population. Tourgée’s career intersects with the Orange County stories of Washington and Nelson Morrow. As a judge for the district that included Orange County, he would likely have presided over their trial and would certainly have afforded them a fair trial. A fear of Tourgée’s evenhanded justice, historians believe, was one of the factors that motivated the Klan vigilantes to abduct the men from jail. There is good reason to credit this theory. Tourgée, a white man from Ohio, staked his entire career on fighting for racial equity for Black Americans. He participated in the Constitutional Convention that drafted North Carolina’s progressive 1868 Reconstruction Constitution. In his later career he is best known for representing Homer Plessy in Plessy v. Ferguson.

This program is designed to shine a light on Tourgée, connecting his local role as advocate and judge with full scope of his remarkable career. Keynoting the program will be Deborah-Patrice Hamlin, whose expertise on Tourgée is reflected in the dissertation she wrote under the direction of John Hope Franklin. Other speakers will include Fourth Circuit Judge Jim Wynn, NCCU professor emeritus Freddie Parker, and retired state judge Robert N. Hunter. Moderating their conversation will be Sally Greene. A reception will follow, including a chance to tour the historic courtroom.

Co-sponsoring organizations include the Orange County Community Remembrance Coalition, the BronzeTone Center for Music and History, and the District Bar of the 18th Judicial District of North Carolina, Orange and Chatham Counties.