In October 2010, the Center for Sacramento History received The Colley Papers from the Nathaniel S. and Jerlean J. Colley family. The collection documents the legal and civic activities of Nathaniel Colley, (audio) and is primarily comprised of speeches, statements, editorials, and publications. The finding aid, or guide, provides a complete description of the collection.

Nathaniel Colley, affectionately known by friends and colleagues as “Nat,” devoted himself to the improvement of his community. As one of Sacramento’s earliest African American lawyers, Colley spent 50 years helping to shape the course of social reform across Sacramento, California, and the nation.

A brilliant trial attorney, Nathaniel managed a successful Sacramento law firm, paving the way for groundbreaking anti-discrimination lawsuits and arguing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Together with his wife, Jerlean, Nathaniel raised five children and led numerous civic organizations. His legacy lives on in this collection, comprised of awards and accolades, photographs, and the insightful speeches, letters, and articles for which Nathaniel Colley was renowned. 

Nathaniel Colley led an intentional life. Rooted in family and a sense of right and wrong, Colley melded the personal and private for the sake of civil service. Colley was a civic-minded man who recognized moments ripe for change. For him, the time was always now.

Recently Added Items

Nathaniel Colley Speaking in Seattle, Washington


Nathaniel Colley speaking in Seattle, Washington, 1962.

California State Board of Education


California State Board of Education, April 1962.

McGeorge School of Law Courtroom of the Future


Nathaniel Colley presiding at western regional Mock Trial competition in the McGeorge School of Law Courtroom of the Future, January, 1979.