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Wed, 09.14.1921

Constance Baker Motley, Lawyer, Judge, and Activist born

Constance Baker Motley

*On this date, in 1921, Constance Baker Motley was born. S he was a Black lawyer, judge, and politician.

From New Haven, Connecticut, she was one of nine children to a family who had migrated to America from the Caribbean island of Nevis. While attending school, she was active in the New Haven Youth Council and the New Haven Adult Community Council.  Motley attended Fisk University, transferring to New York University-graduating in 1943 with a degree in economics. She attained her law degree from Columbia University in 1946.

While at Columbia, she became acquainted with Thurgood Marshall, helping with the work needed to file Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 through the NAACP. An instrumental player of that legal team, Motley argued other cases before the Supreme Court, one of her best-known cases was Meredith v. Fair 1962, helping James Meredith gain admission to the University of Mississippi in 1962.

She furthered her cause for civil rights in 1964 by being elected to the New York Senate, the first Black woman to hold that office. In 1966, Motley was appointed to a federal judgeship 1966, the first Black woman to hold that position. She made many important rulings in her new post. In 1991, Motley ruled that it is illegal for a company to make photocopies of articles and book excerpts and assemble them into anthologies for sale to college or university students.

She had written countless articles and legal observations which reflect her stance on civil rights and their importance in America. One example is Equal Justice Under Law: The Life of a Pioneer for Black Civil Rights and Women's Rights 1998. This presents a detailed legal history of her fight against the "separate but equal" racial practices of the 1950s and 1960s. In the fall of 1997, Motley served as jurist-in-residence at the Indiana University School of Law. Constance Baker Motley died on September 28, 2005.

To Become a Lawyer



Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York
ISBN 0-926019-61-9

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