Friday, September 24, 2010

In History: Constance Baker Motley

This is the 44th post in a weekly feature here at Spare Candy, called "In History." Some posts might be little more than a photo, others full on features. If you have any suggestions for a person or event that should be featured, or would like to submit a guest post or cross post, e-mail me at rosiered23 (at) sparecandy (dot) com.

I don't know if I can say enough about Constance Baker Motley She played such a huge role in civil rights and broke a lot of ground. For instance:
  • She was the first black woman ever to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. In Meredith v. Fair she successfully won James Meredith's effort to be the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi.
  • She attended Fisk University, then graduated from New York University in 1943, then received her law degree from Columbia Law School in 1946.
  • Her legal career began as a law clerk in the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF). She was LDF's first female attorney, and she became associate counsel to the LDF, making her the NAACP's lead trial attorney.
  • Motley wrote the original complaint in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, in 1950.
  • In 1964, Motley became the first black woman elected to the New York State Senate.
  • In 1965, she was chosen Manhattan Borough President — the first woman in that position.
  • In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson named her a federal court judge, making her the first black woman named to that position.
  • In 1982, she became the first black woman to serve as chief judge for a federal court.
Do you see what I mean? There are a lot of "firsts" in there. And in addition to all that, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993, was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bill Clinton in 2001, and received the NAACP's Spingarn Medal, the organization's highest honor, in 2003. I am so glad she was honored so highly before her death in 2005.

You can read more about her here and here, and read her obituary in the New York Times here.

Photo source.

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