Making history and making law are the twin components of Constance Baker Motley’s extraordinary life and career. Motley’s legal career began as a law clerk in the fledgling National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Education Fund, where she clerked for Thurgood Marshall.
She became a key legal strategist in the civil rights movement, helping to desegregate Southern schools, busses, lunch counters – and successfully argued nine of ten cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1964, Motley became the first African-American woman elected to the New York State Senate; in 1965 she was chosen Manhattan Borough President – the first woman and first African-American in that position; and in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson named her a Federal Court judge – the first African-American woman so named. Known as an incisive and capable judge, Motley believes her presence makes a difference: “As the first black and first woman, I am proving in everything I do that blacks and women are as capable as anyone.”