Cosntance Baker Motley

Constance B. Motley, half-length portrait, seated, facing front – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Constance Baker Motley (1921-2005)

Constance Baker Motley was an attorney, and later, federal judge, who became a leading figure in the civil rights movement. Born in New Haven, she became the first black woman to attend Columbia Law School. After graduating, future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall hired her to work at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Among her many accomplishments, Motley worked to desegregate southern universities and public spaces, at times providing legal services to such notable activists as Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1964 she became the first black woman ever elected to the New York State Senate, and two years later, the first to become a federal judge after an appointment by President Lyndon Johnson. She spent much of her later life living in Chester, Connecticut.

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Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame. “Constance Baker Motley,” 2015. Link.


Justice Is a Black Woman: The Life and Work of Constance Baker Motley. Hamden, CT: Quinnipiac University, 2012.
Rodgers, R.E. The Trials of Constance Baker Motley, 2015.


Connecticut Freedom Trail. “Constance Baker Motley House,” 2017. Link.


Smith College, Sophia Smith Collection. “Finding Aid to the Constance Baker Motley Papers, 1948-1988: MS 110,” 2015. Link.


Motley, Constance Baker. Equal Justice Under Law: An Autobiography. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998.
Motley, Constance Baker, James K. Feibleman, and Telford Taylor. Perspectives on Justice. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1975.
Motley, Constance Baker. The Legal Aspects of the Amistad Case. New Haven, CT: New Haven Colony Historical Society, 1990.