Constance Baker Motley: A Biography

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Constance Baker Motley was born on September 14, 1921, in New Haven, Connecticut. She was the ninth of twelve children born to parents, whom emigrated from the island of Nevis in the West Indies. Her mother was Rachel Baker and she was a founder of the New Haven NAACP. Her father was Willoughby Alva Baker and he was a chef for student organizations at Yale University. At the age of fifteen, Constance joined the local NAACP were she was denied admission to a local skating rink and public beach. This is what sparked her interest in law and helped her pioneering career as a civil rights lawyer, lawmaker and judge (which spanned six decades) and was highlighted by numerous historic achievements, including the first African American elected to the New York Senate, the first black woman to hold the position of Manhattan Borough President, and the first African American woman appointed to serve as a federal district judge. Constance attended New Haven's integrated public schools. By the age of 15, she decided that she wanted to be a lawyer because of all the active reading she was doing. She also attended Fisk University and then transferred to New York University, were she received a bachelor's degree in economics. She was accepted at Columbia University Law School in 1944 and she went and graduated in 1946. In 1945, she became the law clerk for Thurgood Marshall, then became the chief counsel of the NAACP'S Legal Defense and their educational fund. Over the next 20 years, she did some hard work on some of the United States' civil rights cases, including preparing the draft complaint in 1950, for what would later become Brown v. Board of Education. In the early 1960's, Motley successfully argued for one thousand schoolchildren, who were expelled for demonstrating. She also represented a group called the “Freedom Fighters,” who rode interstate buses to test desegregation laws. From 1961 to 1964, Motley won nine of ten civil rights cases because she...
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