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Civil Rights Queen

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Early on in Constance Baker Motley’s career, a newspaper reporter dubbed her the Civil Rights Queen—and with good reason. As Tomiko Brown-Nagin, dean of the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, powerfully chronicles in her book, Motley—one of the first Black women to practice law—worked as a law clerk at the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund under Thurgood Marshall fresh out of college. From there, she played key roles in arguing Brown vs. Board of Education, defending Martin Luther King Jr. in Birmingham, and working to strike down Jim Crow laws across the South. Motley would go on to become the first Black woman to be elected Manhattan Borough President, elected to the state Senate in New York, and later appointed to the federal judiciary—a legacy that is captured in incredible detail in this refreshing biography. —Laura ZornosaB

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