Oliver Randolph (1877-1951) was the only African American member of the 1947 New Jersey Constitutional Convention.
In that post, he led a fight that successfully banned discrimination in New Jersey’s public schools and the National Guard.
Born in Virginia, Randolph was the grandson of a slave, Joseph Robinson, who bought his freedom around the start of the Civil War. His father, John Randolph, was the acting speaker of the Mississippi legislature during Reconstruction.
After graduating from Howard University, Randolph moved to New Jersey and became an attorney in Newark.
In 1922, Randolph, a Republican, was elected to the New Jersey State Assembly — the second African American to serve in the legislature. He sponsored New Jersey’s anti-lynching laws.
He left the Assembly after just seven months to take a position as an assistant U.S. Attorney for New Jersey and was the first African American to serve as a federal prosecutor from the state. He was offered the position at the recommendation of New Jersey’s United States Senator, Walter Edge.
Later, he served as a deputy attorney general of New Jersey.
This story was first published in 2021 and updated in 2022.