Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality
This first major biography of Constance Baker Motley—a legendary crusader for civil rights—provides a masterful and eye-opening account of the twin struggles for racial and gender equality in twentieth-century America.
"A seminal biography of an extraordinary figure . . . a magisterial work that befits its subject.”—Ibram X. Kendi, bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist
Born to an aspirational working-class family during the Great Depression, Constance Baker Motley was expected to make a career as a hairdresser. Instead, she earned a law degree and used it to transform American society. For many years the only woman member of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s legal team, Motley helped litigate Brown v. Board of Education, defended Martin Luther King in Birmingham, and played a critical role in vanquishing Jim Crow laws throughout the South. During a second act, she broke barriers in politics by becoming the first woman elected borough president of Manhattan and the first black woman elected to the New York State Senate. In a third act that capped her career, she was the first black woman appointed to the federal judiciary, becoming both a symbol of change in the American power structure and a part of it—an outsider within the system that she had long fought.
This deeply researched and incisive examination of gender, race, and class tells the inspiring story of a remarkable American life and of a tumultuous period of social change. Against the backdrop of Motley’s pathbreaking life, Tomiko Brown-Nagin ponders some of our most timeless and urgent questions: How do historically marginalized people access the corridors of power? How does access to power shape individuals committed to social justice? And what is the price of the ticket?
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