Black History Month Spotlight: Constance Baker Motley

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Today’s BHM spotlight is on Constance Baker Motley, a female lawyer, judge, state senator, and civil rights activist. Motley was the first African-American woman ever to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

  • The case was Meredith v. Fair, regarding James Meredith’s right to attend the University of Mississippi in 1962. She won the case, and James Meredith became the first African American student to attend the university.
  • Motley also wrote the original complaint for the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case in 1950.
  • Overall, Motley argued 10 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and won 9 of them (she technically won the 10th case, since the jury’s decision was eventually overturned in her favor).
  • Motley was also the first African-American woman elected to the New York State senate in 1964.
  • She was also the first African-American woman to be appointed as a federal court judge by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966.
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