Upcoming Event

Virtual Event: Tomiko Brown-Nagin

presenting

Civil Rights Queen:
Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality

in conversation with RANDALL KENNEDY

Date

Jan
28
Friday
January 28, 2022
7:00 PM ET

Location

Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.

Tickets

Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes TOMIKO BROWN-NAGIN—acclaimed legal historian and Dean of Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study—for a discussion of her latest book, Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality. She will be joined in conversation by colleague and fellow legal scholar RANDALL KENNEDY, author of Say It Loud!: On Race, Law, History, and Culture

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About Civil Rights Queen

Born to an aspirational blue-collar family during the Great Depression, Constance Baker Motley was expected to find herself a good career as a hair dresser. Instead, she became the first black woman to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court, the first of ten she would eventually argue. The only black woman member in the legal team at the NAACP’s Inc. Fund at the time, she defended Martin Luther King in Birmingham, helped to argue in Brown vs. The Board of Education, and played a critical role in vanquishing Jim Crow laws throughout the South. She was the first black woman elected to the state Senate in New York, the first woman elected Manhattan Borough President, and the first black woman appointed to the federal judiciary.

Civil Rights Queen captures the story of a remarkable American life, a figure who remade law and inspired the imaginations of African Americans across the country. Burnished with an extraordinary wealth of research, award-winning, esteemed Civil Rights and legal historian and dean of the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Tomiko Brown-Nagin brings Motley to life in these pages. Brown-Nagin compels us to ponder some of our most timeless and urgent questions—how do the historically marginalized access the corridors of power? What is the price of the ticket? How does access to power shape individuals committed to social justice? In Civil Rights Queen, she dramatically fills out the picture of some of the most profound judicial and societal change made in twentieth-century America.

Praise for Civil Rights Queen

“Rigorously researched and elegantly written, Civil Rights Queen is a seminal biography of an extraordinary figure whose legacy has been obscured for far too long. Brown-Nagin powerfully illuminates Motley’s journey into the heart of American law and politics, and the result is a magisterial work that befits its subject.” —Ibram X. Kendi, bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist

“Now, at last, in Civil Rights Queen, the brilliant historian and legal scholar, Tomiko Brown-Nagin has given Constance Motley’s life and heroic achievements the attention they deserve. It’s difficult for me to imagine a biography we’ve needed more. Civil Rights Queen restores a truly brave, courageous, and brilliant lawyer and jurist to her proper place in American history.” —Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University

Civil Rights Queen is a brilliant work, elegantly written and deeply researched.  Brown-Nagin does complete justice to the life of Constance Baker Motley, one of the Twentieth Century’s towering figures.” —Annette Gordon-Reed

Randall Kennedy
Randall Kennedy

Randall Kennedy

Randall Kennedy is the Michael R. Klein Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton and his law degree from Yale. He attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and is a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He is the author of Race, Crime, and the Law, a winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award; Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption; Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word; Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal; The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency; and For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law.

Photo credit: Martha Stewart

Tomiko Brown-Nagin
Tomiko Brown-Nagin

Tomiko Brown-Nagin

Tomiko Brown-Nagin is an award-winning legal historian and an expert in constitutional law and education law and policy. Her 2011 book, Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement, won six awards, including the Bancroft Prize in U.S. History. In her new book, Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality, Brown-Nagin explores the life and times of Constance Baker Motley, the pathbreaking lawyer, politician, and judge. In 2019, Brown-Nagin was appointed chair of the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, which is anchored at the Radcliffe Institute. 

Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Event Series: Virtual Event Series

Harvard Book Store’s award-winning event series continues online! Named "Best of Boston: 2020 Best Virtual Author Series" and "2021 Best Virtual Author Series" by Boston magazine.

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