Equal Justice Under Law: An Autobiography

Constance Baker Motley, Author
Constance Baker Motley, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $25 (400p) ISBN 978-0-374-14865-2
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
Paperback - 308 pages - 978-0-374-52618-4
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Motley has a remarkable r sum --chief judge of the New York Southern Federal District Court, and the first black female Manhattan Borough president and New York State senator. More remarkable was her 20-year service as civil rights lawyer alongside the legendary Thurgood Marshall as a member of the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund. Key cases helped desegregate public schools and state universities, including the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, in 1954. One of 12 children from a relatively poor New Haven family, Motley studied at Nashville's all-black Fisk University then at Columbia Law School. Her account of the early legal work that helped lay the foundations of the civil rights movement makes interesting reading despite excessive detail at times. In contrast, she writes frankly about Marshall's temper, her disdain for certain judges appointed by President Kennedy, tensions with Sen. Robert F. Kennedy after opposing his political wishes in New York politics and slights by the white legal establishment in New York City. Even more important are Motley's reflections on what's happening today to the principles around which she dedicated her career. She is critical of the current Supreme Court's stance on affirmative action and does not hide her contempt for Justice Clarence Thomas. She argues eloquently for government vigilance in monitoring the unfinished struggle against racial discrimination. Photos. Movie rights to Marcia Paul, Kay, Collyer and Boose. (July)
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