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VIRTUAL BOOK TALK: Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality
Tomiko Brown-Nagin in conversation with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
Born to an aspirational blue-collar family during the Great Depression, Constance Baker Motley was expected to find herself a good career as a hairdresser. Instead, she became the first black woman to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court, the first of ten she would eventually argue. The only black woman member in the legal team at the NAACP's Inc. Fund at the time, she defended Martin Luther King in Birmingham, helped to argue in Brown vs. The Board of Education, and played a critical role in vanquishing Jim Crow laws throughout the South. She was the first black woman elected to the state Senate in New York, the first woman elected Manhattan Borough President, and the first black woman appointed to the federal judiciary.
Civil Rights Queen captures the story of a remarkable American life, a figure who remade law and inspired the imaginations of African Americans across the country. Burnished with an extraordinary wealth of research, award-winning, esteemed Civil Rights and legal historian and dean of the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Tomiko Brown-Nagin brings Motley to life in these pages. Brown-Nagin compels us to ponder some of our most timeless and urgent questions--how do the historically marginalized access the corridors of power? What is the price of the ticket? How does access to power shape individuals committed to social justice? In Civil Rights Queen, she dramatically fills out the picture of some of the most profound judicial and societal change made in twentieth-century America.
Tomiko Brown-Nagin is Dean of Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, and Professor of History at Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In 2019, she was appointed chair of the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, of the American Philosophical Society, and of the American Law Institute, and a distinguished lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. Her previous book, Courage to Dissent won the Bancroft Prize in 2011. She frequently appears as a commentator in media. She lives in Boston with her family.
Ibram X. Kendi is a #1 New York Times and National Book Award-winning author. He is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. Kendi is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News racial justice contributors. He is the 2020-2021 Frances B. Cashin Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for the Advanced Study at Harvard University, and he has been a Guggenheim Fellow.
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