Civil Rights Queen: Book summary and reviews of Civil Rights Queen by Tomiko Brown-Nagin

Civil Rights Queen

Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality

by Tomiko Brown-Nagin

Civil Rights Queen by Tomiko Brown-Nagin X
Civil Rights Queen by Tomiko Brown-Nagin
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  • Publishes in USA 
    Jan 25, 2022
    512 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

The first major biography of one of our most influential but least known activist lawyers that provides an eye-opening account of the twin struggles for gender equality and civil rights in the 20th Century.

Born to an aspirational blue-collar family during the Great Depression, Constance Baker Motley was expected to find herself a good career as a hair dresser. Instead, she became the first black woman to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court, the first of ten she would eventually argue. The only black woman member in the legal team at the NAACP's Inc. Fund at the time, she defended Martin Luther King in Birmingham, helped to argue in Brown vs. The Board of Education, and played a critical role in vanquishing Jim Crow laws throughout the South. She was the first black woman elected to the state Senate in New York, the first woman elected Manhattan Borough President, and the first black woman appointed to the federal judiciary.

Civil Rights Queen captures the story of a remarkable American life, a figure who remade law and inspired the imaginations of African Americans across the country. Burnished with an extraordinary wealth of research, award-winning, esteemed Civil Rights and legal historian and dean of the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Tomiko Brown-Nagin brings Motley to life in these pages. Brown-Nagin compels us to ponder some of our most timeless and urgent questions--how do the historically marginalized access the corridors of power? What is the price of the ticket? How does access to power shape individuals committed to social justice? In Civil Rights Queen, she dramatically fills out the picture of some of the most profound judicial and societal change made in twentieth-century America.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In this immersive and eye-opening biography, Bancroft Prize winner Brown-Nagin places the groundbreaking legal and political career of Constance Baker Motley (1921–2005) in the context of the civil rights and women's rights movements...Brilliantly balancing the details of Motley's professional and personal life with lucid legal analysis, this riveting account shines a well-deserved—and long overdue—spotlight on a remarkable trailblazer." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Stirring…An excellent exploration of the life of an admirable pioneer who deserves to be far better known." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Civil Rights Queen is an essential text…and a testament to one of the most remarkable women in history who deserves far more recognition." - Booklist (starred review)

"Brown-Nagin's well-written account places an often-overlooked figure in the context of history and argues that Motley should be remembered as one of the principal strategists of the civil rights movement…[Civil Rights Queen] not only shines a light on a forgotten civil rights pioneer but also asks insightful questions about the relationship of power, gender, and social justice. This is an important addition." - Library Journal

"Rigorously researched and elegantly written, Civil Rights Queen is a seminal biography of an extraordinary figure whose legacy has been obscured for far too long. Brown-Nagin powerfully illuminates Motley's journey into the heart of American law and politics, and the result is a magisterial work that befits its subject." - Ibram X. Kendi, bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist

"Constance Baker Motley ought to be as well-known as Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In a better world, Motley would be a household name. With this urgently necessary and exhaustive biography, Tomiko Brown-Nagin is building that better world." - Jill Lepore, author of These Truths: A History of the United States

"A must read for anyone who dares to believe that equal justice under the law is possible and is in search of a model for how to make it a reality." - Anita Hill

This information about Civil Rights Queen shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Tomiko Brown-Nagin

Tomiko Brown-Nagin is Dean of Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, and Professor of History at Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In 2019, she was appointed chair of the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, of the American Philosophical Society, and of the American Law Institute, and a distinguished lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. Her previous book, Courage to Dissent, won the Bancroft Prize in 2011. She frequently appears as a commentator in media. She lives in Boston with her family.

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