Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-x

I have many people to thank for making this book a possibility. I start with Constance Royster (Connie), the namesake and niece of Judge Constance Baker Motley. When I was a child, Connie ofen invited my family to picnics at her home. I first met Judge Motley at one of those picnics. Later, when I was a young adult, Connie took me to visit Judge Motley at her country home in Connecticut. During that visit Judge Motley served chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a “mile high” pie with ice cream. Before dinner Judge Motley talked with me about her civil rights work. She showed me photographs she had taken...

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1. Clarifying and Correcting the Narratives of the Civil Rights Movement

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pp. 1-7

On a sunny day in 1959, five years after the US Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, four lawyers—one of them an articulate, confident, well-dressed, and statuesque black woman—triumphantly walked out of the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.1 They had just won the case to desegregate public schools in Atlanta. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had filed the lawsuit on behalf of ten black parents in Atlanta a year earlier, in 1958. The parents were seeking admission of their children into the all-white Atlanta public schools. The separate all-black...

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2. Black Women: On the Front Lines but Not Properly Credited

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pp. 8-16

To comprehend the anatomy of the marginalization of Constance Baker Motley in the historical narratives of the civil rights movement, one must first understand the larger history of the movement and the lack of credit given to many black women who led struggles to abolish slavery, enact antilynching laws, abolish poll taxes and white primaries, and gain women’s suffrage, fair housing, and temperance. Long before the civil rights movement of the 1950s–1960s, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Anna Julia Haywood Cooper, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary Church Terrell, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Dorothy I. Height were some of...

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3. Early Life and Preparation to Become a Leader

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pp. 17-28

Born in New Haven, Connecticut, on September 14, 1921, Constance Baker was the ninth of twelve children of Rachel Keziah Huggins Baker and Willoughby Alva Baker, both of whom were immigrants from Nevis, British West Indies.1 In a story familiar to many immigrants, her father emigrated first, arriving in New Haven in 1906. Her mother arrived a year later in 1907 to marry her father.2

There were few job opportunities for blacks when the Baker family settled in New Haven. “Prior to World War II there was nothing for blacks to do except domestic work or work at Yale,” Constance recalled. Her father got a job...

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4. Work in the Trenches: The Case-by-Case Implementation of Brown v. Board of Education

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pp. 29-71

When Constance Baker Motley passed the bar exam and became a full-time staff attorney for the LDF, she entered a profession that was exclusionary and dominated primarily by white men. Both female lawyers and black lawyers, and especially black female lawyers, were almost nonexistent. Out of all the lawyers in the country at the time, only fifty-seven of them were black women.1 Furthermore, very few female lawyers at that time did trial work in court.2

Motley was one of the first women to become a member of the New York City Bar Association. The first time she attempted to use its library she was stopped at...

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5. Representing Protesters: Mass Demonstrations, Marches, Sit-Ins, and Freedom Rides

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pp. 72-89

In addition to her school desegregation work, Constance Baker Motley was an attorney in Rice v. Elmore, a voting rights case in South Carolina, where blacks had been excluded from voting in Democratic Party primary elections.1 The LDF took the case because the exclusion constituted a violation of the Fifteenth Amendment and because primary elections are an integral part of the election process.2 The case was important in protecting the rights of blacks to register and to vote. It was important to gain access for blacks to the political power structure; to empower them to become politically active; to force elected officials on the local,...

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6. Desegregating America, Case by Case, in the Supreme Court

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pp. 90-95

Constance Baker Motley handled a large number of cases that were appealed. As a result, she was ofen inundated with work to get cases ready to be heard in the Supreme Court. She had to do the time-consuming tasks of preparing the record for the appeal, writing the brief to be filed, and preparing to argue the case.

The LDF and the NAACP as a whole did not limit themselves to challenging desegregation in education, housing, voting rights, and public accommodations. They also took cases challenging discrimination and the unequal treatment of blacks in the criminal justice system. Motley argued and won criminal...

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7. The Transition from Activist Movement Lawyer

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pp. 96-111

After almost twenty years at the LDF (from 1945 as a law clerk and from 1946 through 1964 as a staff attorney), Constance Baker Motley made the transition from an activist movement lawyer to political office. The stress of constant travel and extended periods away from her family, the emotional toll of dealing with taunts and hostility directed at her from angry mobs, and the insults she endured from having to be served in segregated restaurants and confined to segregated public accommodations because she was black influenced her decision.

The assassination of Medgar Evers, whom she had worked very closely with on NAACP cases, was also a significant factor...

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Conclusion

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pp. 112-116

This book has centered on Constance Baker Motley and the work she performed as a civil rights movement lawyer. It has focused on her victories in the courtroom that affected the strategies and outcomes of the civil rights movement, accelerated the end of Jim Crow segregation, led to equality in many aspects of life for blacks and whites, and made major long-term changes that helped transform the United States into a more inclusive, equal, just, and democratic society.

Motley exhibited a leadership style that reflected her personality traits, skills, and strengths. She was a visionary who devised and implemented the legal...

Appendix: Constance Baker Motley’s NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Cases

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pp. 117-128

Notes

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pp. 129-144

Bibliography

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pp. 145-154

Index

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pp. 155-164