African American News and Genealogy

This site was developed to provide you with news that relates to African American Genealogy, History and News. Please feel free to forward this link to others. I hope you enjoy this site and good luck with your research! Cheers, Kenyatta D. Berry Managing Director

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Another remarkable voice for civil rights passes

By Merlene DavisHERALD-LEADER COLUMNIST With the death last week of Constance Baker Motley, most of the warriors of the Civil Rights Era have been laid to rest. Her death means there is one fewer fighter willing to sacrifice life and limb to force America to end years of unequal treatment of its citizens. Motley, 84, who began her career in law as a clerk for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in 1945, was the first black woman named to the federal bench, as well as the first black woman in the New York State Senate, and the first woman to be Manhattan borough president. She joined the Defense Fund in 1945, while still a student at Columbia Law School and worked under Thurgood Marshall, who later became a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. When she earned her law degree, Motley fought to tear down Southern segregation through the court system until 1963. In 1950, she prepared the draft argument for what would become Brown vs. Board of Education. Later, she helped argue that desegregation case. In 1957, she argued the case in Little Rock, Ark., that led President Eisenhower to call in federal troops to protect nine black students at Central High School there. And she represented James Meredith in his successful bid to be the first black student at the University of Mississippi in 1962. Marshall placed the latter case on Motley's desk because he believed Southern racists wouldn't harm a black woman, she said in a 2003 interview with the American Bar Association's "Litigation Online." "Thurgood's theory was, in the South they don't bother black women because they all have mammies," Motley said. She won the case but was afraid Meredith would flunk out his first semester. "U.S. marshals had to sleep in the room with him," Motley said. "How are you going to study with marshals with guns?" But he did finish, and he had marshals with him the entire time. That was one of nine cases she won before the U.S. Supreme Court. She lost only one before that august body. And yet, she was before her time, facing discrimination oftentimes because of her sex rather than her race, even at the NAACP. "Women just didn't have the status that we now have in the field," she said. Born in New Haven, Conn., to parents who emigrated from the British West Indies, she was one of 12 children. Her father worked in food services at Yale University, so there wasn't enough money to send the children to college. A white businessman, Clarence Blakeslee, whose family had ties to abolitionists, paid her way to college and through law school. She said he did that for several students, black and white. "He was at my graduation from Columbia Law School," she said. "So he was somebody who took an interest -- he didn't write a check to get a tax exemption. I sometimes wonder if we still have people like that. I guess we do." President Lyndon Johnson named her to the federal bench in 1966. She was still working as a senior judge when she died. Motley didn't hold out much hope for change in this country, however. She believed the battles are the same. She said when she attended a commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Brown in Alabama, the young man assigned with picking her up and taking her back to the airport did not know anything about the "Brown case." "Then I knew it was all over," she said in the ABA interview. "We are going to fight the same battles in this century that we fought in the last. "The reason is, if you don't know your own history, you are bound to repeat it," she said. "He is 18 years old," she continued. "He didn't know. He was in Alabama, and he never heard of Brown vs. Board of Education. So that's where we are, I am sad to say." Mercy. I just had to be sure we did not ignore her passing.


  • At 12:26 PM, Blogger PolarTrader said…

    Great Blog, check out this business. This is the Goose that lays you Golden Eggs! currency e training
    Submit your Articles and get lot of backlinks:


Post a Comment

<< Home