• 37°

NC Supreme Court removing portrait of slave owner ex-justice

RALEIGH (AP) — The North Carolina Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it will remove a portrait of a former chief justice from its courtroom who staunchly defended slavery and owned slaves himself.

Thomas Ruffin, a slave owner in the 1800s, believed an owner’s power over his slave was absolute. He once wrote in a court ruling that slaveholders should not be convicted for the assault or battery of an enslaved person.

The court’s decision to remove the portrait took note of Ruffin’s slave ownership and his rulings defending slavery. Its announcement said Ruffin was regarded by his contemporaries as “particularly brutal in his ownership of slaves.”

The decision followed a recommendation made last week by the Advisory Commission on Portraits, which the court formed in 2018 in response to calls for the portrait’s removal.

A smaller portrait of Ruffin was removed from an Orange County courthouse earlier this year, as was a statue of him from the entrance of the state Court of Appeals building. The appeals building was once named after him.

Outgoing state Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley said in a statement that a Supreme Court seal will replace Ruffin’s portrait in the court. Beasley is the second Black chief justice in the court’s history.

“It is important that our courtroom spaces convey the highest ideals of justice and that people who come before our Court feel comfortable knowing that they will be treated fairly,” Beasley wrote. She called the decision to remove the portrait “a tremendous reflection of the progress that has been made since the time Chief Justice Ruffin served on the Court.”

Ruffin served on the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1829 to 1852 and again from 1858 to 1859. He wrote an opinion that overturned the conviction of a slave owner, John Mann, for shooting in the back a slave named Lydia who fled after refusing the owner’s orders. Ruffin wrote that a slave’s obedience “is the consequence only of uncontrolled authority over the body.”

Comments

News

Nesting no more: Eagles appear to have moved on from Duke’s Buck Station

Business

The Smoke Pit leaving downtown Salisbury for standalone building on Faith Road

Education

Shoutouts

High School

High school football: Hornets’ Gaither set the tone against West

Local

Salisbury to show off new fire station

Education

Livingstone College to host virtual Big Read events this month

Local

City makes some appointments to local boards, holds off on others to seek women, appointees of color

Education

Education briefs: RCCC instructor honored by Occupational Therapy Association

Local

Second quarter financial update shows promising outlook for city’s budget

Columnists

Genia Woods: Let’s talk about good news in Salisbury

Local

City attorney will gather more information for Salisbury nondiscrimination ordinance

Education

North Hills planning to hold May fundraiser in person

East Spencer

Developers aim to transform former Dunbar School site into multi-purpose community development

Education

Knox student organizing event to get community cycling

Education

Decision on Essie Mae charter appeal expected Thursday

Nation/World

House passes sweeping voting rights bill over GOP opposition

Nation/World

Police uncover ‘possible plot’ by militia to breach Capitol

Nation/World

States rapidly expanding vaccine access as supplies surge

News

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper receives COVID-19 vaccine

News

North Carolina health officials urge schools to reopen

Crime

In letter, PETA criticizes Salisbury Police for K-9 video

Coronavirus

Three deaths, 29 new COVID-19 positives reported

Crime

Blotter: Bullet holes found in woman’s Park Avenue apartment

Crime

Man faces assault charges for domestic incident