Painting inspired by photo in Chester Higgins Archive.
From the late 1940s through the early 1960s, Constance Motley played a pivotal role in the fight to end racial segregation. She was the first African American woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court, and the first to serve as a federal judge.
As a front-line lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Motley personally led the litigation that integrated the Universities of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi among others—overcoming Southern governors who literally barred the door to African American students. She opened up schools and parks to African Americans, and successfully championed the rights of minorities to protest peacefully.
In 1998, Motley published an autobiography, “Equal Justice Under Law.” On one subject she revealed her inner fire: the sting of racial discrimination.