Constance Baker Motley: Lady of the Law



An exhibition at The Lillian Goldman Law Library
Yale Law School
Level Two
March 9 - May 26, 2022

This exhibit traces the career of Constance Baker Motley (1921-2005), Civil Rights attorney and New Haven native.  The first woman attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; the first Black woman to argue before the United States Supreme Court; the first Black woman Senator in New York State; the first woman Manhattan Borough President; the first Black woman to be appointed to the federal bench; one of the first Black women graduates of Columbia Law School: these and others are among the many extraordinary accomplishments of Judge Motley’s career.  Drawing on images and personal items from the collection of her family, and on her own words in her autobiography, the exhibition offers a glimpse of Motley, brilliantly at work, from her childhood in New Haven to her career as a Civil Rights attorney, New York Senator, and federal judge.

For further information and a gallery of images, please visit the online exhibition.

Credits & Acknowledgments

The idea for this exhibition originated with Jordan Jefferson (Yale Law Library), Marinda Monfilston (Office of Diversity & Inclusion), and Fallon Thomas (Yale School of Medicine), drawing on their engagement with the 2021 celebration of the centenary of Judge Motley’s birth.   It was curated with Kathryn James (Rare Book Librarian, Yale Law Library).

The exhibition organizers would like to thank the many contributors to this exhibition, including The Lillian Goldman Law Library, The Yale African American Affinity Group, The Working Women’s Network, The Office of Diversity & Inclusion, and The New Haven Club, Inc.-NANPBWC,

We also thank the family of Constance Baker Motley for their generosity in loaning these items for exhibition.

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