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Constance Baker Motley was an African American judge, lawyer, civil rights activist, and politician. She won multiple cases championing civil rights. She was also a Borough president of Manhattan, New York.
See the fact file below for more information on the Constance Baker Motley or alternatively, you can download our 22-page Constance Baker Motley worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
Early Life and Education
- Constance Baker Motley was born Constance Baker in New Haven, Connecticut on September 14, 1921.
- She was born to Caribbean natives McCullough Alva Baker and Rachel Huggins.
- She has eleven siblings and is the ninth child.
- Constance Baker was raised in New Haven.
- She went to an integrated school, but she still encountered racism in other places such as a beach and a skating rink where she was denied entry.
- At a young age, she was already aware of racial issues which led her to be keen on participating actively to advocate for civil rights.
- She attended law school after being inspired by books about civil rights work and the significance of a legal profession.
- Her family could not afford to send her to college so she worked as a maid before getting a job at the National Youth Administration.
- She was able to attend college when Clarence Blakeslee, a financially capable contractor, was inspired by one of her speeches and offered to pay for her studies.
- Baker first attended a historically black college: Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.
- She later transferred to an integrated school: New York University.
- In 1943, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at NYU.
- In October 1945, she was hired as a law clerk by Thurgood Marshall, who was then the chief counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and who became the US Supreme Court Associate Justice.
- As a law clerk, she worked on court martial cases submitted after the World War II.
- In 1946, she obtained her Bachelor of Laws degree at Columbia Law School.
- In 1946, Baker married real estate broker Joel Motley, Jr. in New Haven, Connecticut.
- She gave birth to her only son, Joel Wilson Motley III, who became the co-chairman of Human Rights Watch.
Civil Rights Lawyer
- Constance Baker Motley became a civil rights lawyer after her graduation from Columbia.
- She worked as the first female attorney for the Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) of the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People (NAACP).
- She became Associate Counsel to the fund.
- She was the lead trial attorney in many of the fund’s important cases.
- While Martin Luther King Jr. was in prison, Constance paid him visits.
- As a civil rights attorney, she also visited churches that were bombed.
- She was a key figure in integrating schools and buses in the south.
- She filed the original complaint in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, which pushed for the integration of the Little Rock Nine in Arkansas.
- She was the first African American woman to argue a case before the US Supreme Court in the case of Meredith v. Fair.
- The court ruled in favor of James Meredith in Meredith v. Fair making James Meredith the first black student to enroll in the University of Mississippi in 1962.
- Motley also defended protestors arrested during the Freedom Rides.
- Between 1961 and 1963, she argued ten cases before the US Supreme Court and won nine of them.
- 1964 was the year when Constance Baker Motley’s political career began.
- On February 4, 1964, she became a senator of the 21st district of New York State.
- Her election made her the first African American woman to be in the State Senate.
- In 1964, she was seated in the 174th and 175th New York State Legislature.
- In 1965, she was selected to be the Borough President of Manhattan, New York City.
- She was the first woman to be chosen as Manhattan Borough President.
- As Borough president, she focused on community revitalizations in Harlem and East Harlem.
- She was re-elected for a four-year term in November 1965.
- In January 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated her to a seat on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
- Upon confirmation of the US Senate, she became the first female African American judge in August 1966.
- For four years (from 1982 to 1986), she served as Chief Judge.
- She assumed senior status on September 30, 1986.
- In 1984, she became the recipient of the Candace Award for Distinguished Service awarded by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.
- She was inducted into National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.
- In 2001, she received the Presidential Citizens Medal which was awarded by President Bill Clinton.
- In 2003, the NAACP awarded her the highest honor: the Spingarn Medal.
- She received honorary membership from the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.
Death and Legacy
- Her service ended when she died of congestive heart failure on September 28, 2005.
- Two documentary films were made on the life and contributions of Constance Baker Motley: “Justice is a Black Woman: The Life and Work of Constance Baker Motley” was shown in 2012 and “The Trials of Constance Baker Motley” premiered in 2015.
Constance Baker Motley Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Constance Baker Motley across 22 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Constance Baker Motley worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Constance Baker Motley who was an African American judge, lawyer, civil rights activist, and politician. She won multiple cases championing civil rights. She was also a Borough president of Manhattan, New York.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Constance Baker Motley Facts
- Turn To Truth
- Blank Timeline
- Quote Analysis
- Constance Crossword
- Making Sense
- Lawyer Politician
- American Attorneys
- Different Duties
- What Would Motley Say
- Documentary Storyboard
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Link will appear as Constance Baker Motley Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, January 22, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
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