Of the more than 250 cases she handled while at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the James Meredith case was perhaps the most noteworthy effort by Constance Baker Motley. In this episode, we take an in-depth look at how the case started, some aspects that were unique to the case, and what Mrs. Motley felt was the long-term impact and meaning of the whole matter.
Special thanks to Joel Motley, III and The Trials of Constance Baker Motley documentary for select archival footage and to the Columbia Oral History Project. The sequence of the case was adapted from Equal Justice Under Law: An Autobiography of Constance Baker Motley (Ferrar, Strauss and Giroux 1998).
Constance Baker Motley (September 14, 1921 – September 28, 2005) was an African-American civil rights activist, lawyer, judge, state senator, and Borough President of Manhattan, New York City. She was the first African-American woman appointed to the federal judiciary, serving as a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. She was an assistant attorney to Thurgood Marshall arguing the case Brown v. Board of Education.
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