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tv   Tomiko Brown- Nagin Civil Rights Queen  CSPAN  April 13, 2022 3:36pm-4:37pm EDT

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in fact they were the ones who made sure that the conversations were taped as johnson would signal to them through an open door between his office and theirs. >> you will also hear some blunt talk snoonchts jim? >> yes, sir? >> i want a report to the number of people assigned to kennedy when he -- the day he died, and the number assigned to me now. and if mine are not less, i want them less right quick. >> yes, sir. >> if i can't ever go to the bathroom, i won't go. i promise you i won't go anywhere. i will just stay height behind these black gates. >>ess presidential recordings, on c-span now, find it wherever you get your podcasts. there are a lot of places to get political information. but only at c-span do you get it straight from the source. no matter where you are from, or where you stand on the issues, c-span is america's network.
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unfiltered, unbiased, word for word. if it happens here, or here, or here, or anywhere that matters, america isis watching on c-span. powered by capable.we -- powered by cable. welcome, everyone to atlanta history center's virtual author talk series. i am claire haley, the vice president of public relation asks programs here for the history center. it is absolutely my pleasure to welcome you tonight's event featuring tomiko brown nagin talking about her newest book out recently called civil rights queen, constance baker motley and the struggle for equality. if you haven't yet purchased your copy of the book you are missing out. it is an incredible story about an incredible wochl you can find a link to purchase the book from atlanta history center in the chat. tonight it is 25% off. then we offer domestic u.s.
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shipping as well as in-store pickup if you are local to the atlanta area. we encourage you to support dean brown nagin and the book and purchase your copy from atlanta history center. again, tonight's guest is tomiko brown nagin, a dean, a professor of constitutional law at harvard law school and professor of history at harvard university's faculty of arts and sciences. she's appointed chair of the presidential committee on harvard and the legacy of slavery in 2019. and as a member of the american actually of arts and sciences, the american philosophical society and the american law institute. she has many other accolades which we can't quite get into in our short intro tonight. rest assured you are in for a wonderful conversation. she is in conversation tonight with rose scott. if you are familiar at all with atlanta, you know rose scott's voice-over the air waves. she's an award winning
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journalist, has been reporting in atlanta for more than two decades and is currently the host of closer look on wbae and on a radio station. welcome. we are going to turn it over to dean brown nagin with a reading from the book. and then she will go right into the conversation. >> wonderful. thank you, claire, and the atlanta history center for having me, and also to rose scott for joining me in conversation. i am excited to be here. i am going to read a selection from a chapter of my book on motley's most famous case, which was the battle to desegregate ol' miss. this man has got to be crazy, thurgood marshall yelled to motley in january of 1961. that's your case. marshall had descended upon motley's office waving a letter
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from james meredith. the missive contained such a preposterous idea that marshall thought the writer must be out of his mind. i am submitting an application for admission to the university of mississippi, meredith wrote, and ip anticipating encountering difficulties with the various agencies here and the state. in view of the brewing trouble, meredith requested marshall's legal assistance. after marshall finished laughing about meredith's proposal to sue ol' miss, he watched his hands of the case. marshall knew connie backer motdly had the smarts and courtroom zoils do the job. and he thought her gender would be an advantage. the fight to deseg brat ol' miss might get someone killed. but in the context of mississippi's white supremacist yet show horse culture as marshall saw it a black woman would fair better than a black
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man. any white supremacist he opined would scarce legal think twice about murdering a black man but might hesitate to lynch a black woman. the very idea of a black woman lawyer violently clashed with the world view of do you go as chant esquire, the white male lawyer who defended ol' miss. kmant refuses directly engaging. he called her her, or she. at one point early on, motley jumped to her feet to put an end to the charade. the tipping point occurred when chant called her constance. i wouldlike for mr. chant not to call be by my first name. hence forth he referred to her
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as the new york counsel. after months of struggle and delays mayor edit had enough. browbeaten meredith wrote to motley, resign. i will keenly aware that motley, who had poured herself into the case would be disappointed in his decision, meredith pleaded for understanding. i am human, after all, he wrote. mash edit had grown tired of waiting for a deliverance that never came. life had passed him by. his peers graduated from college, gotten careers and moved on with their lives. in the meantime, he and his family had endured a high cost. literally and figuratively fighting to integrate the university of mississippi. motley was stunned by the message. in order to salvage her case and support her client motley morphed from lawyer to therapist a role she often played in high stakes civil rights cases.
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to get a handle on the fraught situation, the pair would talk in motley's new york city apartment where meredith could taste freedom. there she persuaded him that he had gone too far and too much had been invested in the case by the fund and the federal court of appeals to abandon the lindsey graham. just as meredith reached his breaking point sort arrived precisely as motley had programsed. on september 10th, 1962, u.s. supreme court justice hig gnat black intervened halting any further action preventing james meredith's matriculation to ol' miss. while in ms. miss, motley built community with a small band of lawyers and activists who took part in lvf's effort to end jim crow in the state. she leaned on medgar evers, the naacp's most prominent operative in mississippi who often invited
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motley to his home where she enjoyed home cooked meals, and fellowship are evers, his wife and their children. after only one month after motley left mississippi for the last time, medgar evers was assassinated. it devastated her. motley couldn't get out of bed for weeks following his death. she couldn't even bring herself to attend his funial. nevertheless, she had left the state victorious. constance baker motley emerged as one of the most respected lawyers in america. a story in the "new york times" titled "integration's advocate" captured the professional height to which motley had soared. i am quoting arc tall striking woman with piercing dark eyes is almost always in the courtroom in the eye of hurricane surrounding the struggle for civil rights in the south. motley's fight to desegregate ol' miss brought her public esteem and professional success, along with devastating loss and profound pain.
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thank you. >> thank you, dean. and, again, welcome everyone. full disclosure, dean -- and this is how people i want you to know, believe me, that's from page 176, that is the exact excerpt i have chosen -- i have got it highlighted. >> okay. >> that is the exact excerpt that i was going to reference. well, how about that. again, welcome, everyone. you know, one of my favorite quotes from an extraordinary person, dean, is ida b. wells from her autobiography, there must always be a remedy for wrong and injustice f we only know how to find it. that's attendive to my approach as a journalist. that's why i am excited to be in conversation with you and also to talk about this extraordinary
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person constance baker motley and of course your book the struggle for equality. before we start our conversation, we do want to invite the virtual audience to drop your questions into the q and a. i promise we will weave some of them into our conversation. please drop your questions into the q and a chat box. dean, i want to begin with something that is so striking for me. because in preparing for this interview i went on line and i saw a lot of interviews with constance baker motley. what stood out to me was this very visible innate desire she had in finding through legal corridors a remedy for wrong and justice, which is what i referenced with ida b. wells there. that was apparent to me. we cannot describe this woman in one sentence, but if you had to, how would you describe constance
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baker motley to someone who knew nothing about her? >> in one word, i would say she was fierce. just fierce. and yet a reserved person, regal. it's not just me who which referred to her as a queen. i got the title from a journalist who crowned her the queen. it is interesting. when i was interviewing people, including her clerks, people w.h.o. would call her a queen. this was before i knew i would title her on my book as a queen. she was regal and committed to the struggle for equality. the james meredith case that struggled to deseg brat ol' miss leans to the forehow much she had to sacrifice. she went to mississippi time and time again under threat of her life. she just got out in time,
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essentially, is the way that she felt. and there are many moments of struggle. she had a young son and a husband back in new york. and she only was able to leave them behind because she felt that she was on a mission to set things right for african americans. >> in the boom, you take the reader -- before you take the reader through her life, you make it very clear that a good part of why you wrote this book is because there has been little recognition, historical recognition for this woman. that's at the core of what led you to start writing this book? >> that's right. i should say that i came to know about now relatively little had been written about constance baker motley when i wrote my
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book, courage to dissent about the struggle for civil rights in atlanta. motdly litigated the atlanta desegregation of the schools case all the way to the supreme court. part of my method for drawing people into that story was to write a biographical sketch of each lawyer, including motley. and i was just blown away by how, again, relatively little there was out there. and i wanted to correct that. i think we lose out when we don't understand the full range of individuals who contributed to the struggle for civil rights. and certainly when we lose the lens of gender. it matters to tell the story of the black freedom movement through the eyes of women. and it's inspiring.
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to know her story. and it was just a labor of love to write this book. >> i don't want to give too much away because i know some folks don't have their books. i have mine. but the very first page we read a poem from a very young -- i think she's 15 years old. >> yes. >> striking, what she writes. do you want to share some of that with the audience. >> sure. let's see, where is my -- what do i have here? i will read you some of her words. it was extraordinary. i was -- i had a pleasure of willing given this poem by a family member who thought it was so striking. it's titled listen lord, from the slums. someone told me that god made the world and everything from stone to wood. and we -- when he had finished it, he said that it was good. he worked on it six long days. on the seventh, he rested content. but i have often wondered if
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this is the place he meant. and so she goes on to talk about her surroundings in new haven, and she says, you know, i don't think this is the world that god invented. that's not what he meant to create. so she was talking about, you know, the conditions, the poverty, the discrimination. rose -- she was 15 years old. so, already, that sense of mission had developed in her. >> that sense of mission stayed with her, obviously. but we should note her parents at first weren't too on boarded with the whole, this is the path that i am seeking here, mom and dad. >> they were not. and it's just an intriguing part of the story. therefore two parts of the story. first of all, you know, her background, her parents were
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west indian immigrants, was defining for her. they taught her to be culturally conservative. she believed in the politics of respectability. they liked being a part of the british empire. they taught her as well that she and west indians were special. and her father in particular looked down upon african americans, southern blacks in particular, saying that they sort of allowed themselves to be debazed by jim crow. and yet that's -- her parents' deep interest in her, and belief in her were vital to her aspirations. yet, neither parent thought that she would get very far in the law. her parents and others whom she divulged her interest in law
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school to said you have got to be crazy. women don't become lawyers. and certainly, it was just a curious aspiration for a young black girl from the working class in new haven. >> can you take the reader through when that -- that ideology changed for them, when her parents' ideology of this is what we think will happen -- can you take the audience through how that changed as motley began her legal career? >> i don't talk much about her parents and their perspective on her career. her father dyed relatively early in her career. but i do know, and i do say that her mother certainly was very proud of her, and her whole family was proud of her. she maintained ties to her family, the extended family in
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new haven for many years. took care of them. and ultimately,est she had a strong support network in her family. as well as in friends. and of course i do tell the story about how she was able to go to college because of the support of a new haven contractor, philanthropyist who paid for her college and her law school after being so impressed with a talk that she gave at a community center in new haven. >> let's advance a little bit, and let's talk about mentors and sponsors. but let's get into the first meeting with thurgood marshall. >> well, the story i tell is -- is about how marshall hired her on the spot when she came to the
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law office as a student at columbia law school. he was impressed with her. he told her stories about the women in his life who had been school teachers. of course a tradition in the black community, the strong black middle class. in hiring her he was doing something that others certainly were not. she tried to get a job at a law firm in new york, which is the most lucrative part of the legal profession, and she recounts how the white male partner took one look at her and essentially closed the door in her face. whereas thurgood marshall was impressed by her, hired her. i also note that he asked her to
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climb a ladder during that first interview, evidently, and was sort of admiring her figure. which is a little jarring to modern ears. yet, as i explain in the book, you know, this is an era when jet magazine had a centerfold, right? and it was perceived as compliment for men to respond to women in that way. and i did want to include that part of the story in the book in order to reinforce that we are telling the story through the eyes of a woman. and i think for many women, that is a completely relatable story. >> their relationship in terms of working together, obviously, one aspect. but the personal respect that they had for each other, you draw on that in the book.
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>> yes. absolutely. he -- she often said that he made her career. if it had not been for thurgood marshall, no one ever would have heard of constance baker motley, she said. so -- and he said of her that connie just walked in and took over. meaning she litigated, you know, hundreds of cases for the naacp legal defense fund and developed a reputation as an excellent lawyer, particularly on cross-examining segregationists who just were not accustomed at all to being questioned by a black person, certainly not a black woman. and marshall supported her career and was there with her, including on the day that she was sworn in as the first black
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woman to have a seat on the federal judiciary. >> we should -- this is probably a good time to talk about lyndon johnson, president johnson in that move, and the feedback, if you want to call it back, that president johnson received, some very -- let's call it what it is, hateful and racist responses to what he had done. and you lay it out in the book. in 2022, when you think about it, you read about it, oh, yeah, that happened. but in that moment -- we are talking about in the '60s here. and people should understand that this could have been life threatening to her, you know, with this appointment. >> well, two things, first of all, lindenionson was so proud to have appointed constance
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baker motley to the bench. he vetted her comprehensively, talked to all of the civil rights establishment. talked to some of the jujsz -- judges who had heard her argue. some. supreme court justices and others. people thought very highly of her. at the same time, there was pushback after the appointment, after she was sworn in, and along the way. there were some who said -- i am talking about white liberals in new york who said that her practice experience as a civil rights lawyer was too narrow for the federal district court. and you have to note that the district court that she joined in manhattan was and still is
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the nation's most prestigious. the judges hear a lot of financial litigation. and there were those who thought that she wasn't suitable. and after she was appointed, some people did write in to lyndon johnson and say, why did you do this? the bench has been preserved for legal scholars and people who are well-known in the crowd that was complaining. and i quote -- it is the last sentence of that chapter. the administration, one of johnson's aides, writing back -- she was not appointed because she was anegro. she, indeed, is well qualified for the position. which is -- i thought it was important to end on that note. >> that was after a scathing letter, i believe, from a white
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woman who wrote just some very nasty comments. i want to go back for a moment because we were talking about mentors. what about in terms of mentors. who were her mentors -- folks she looked to in that time when she was maybe having issues or needed someone she could confide in. who were the women in her life? >> i would point to when she was growing up two white school teachers in new haven who exposed her to things that she couldn't have been exposed to, like camping and being in nature, having cheese, talking about literature. they did that for her. and she was grateful and introduced her to the writing of w.b. due boys and james weldon johnson. and that was very important to
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her initial interest in being a civil rights lawyer. she thought of jane bowlen as a role model. jane bowlen was the first black woman graduate of yale law school and went on to an appointment on the new york domestic relations court. and then during her career, she -- she turned to people like bella ab did you go, who was her law school classmate and the first woman elected to congress from new york. shirley chisholm, paw lean murray. all of these women were in struggle together. that's a point that i make in the book. they had different approaches, different personalities. motley was, you know, in many ways, more moderate and reserved, wore a mask in a way that the others likely did not. but they were her support group, i would say, for her. >> when you say wore a mask,
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dissect that a little further for our audience. >> sure. well, she -- she kept herself to herself. she had a -- this imperial demeanor. she held herself back a bit. and i think it's a way of being that one can notice in many black women leaders in history and probably in the present, just holding some of one's self back as a way of protecting one's self. but also, i think it reflected motley's own personality. she was -- she was -- she was reserved. she was private. and one of the really neat things about writing this book was figuring all of that out. because she wasn't helping me
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through the things. >> that's actually one of my questions. because in your research for this, i wanted to know, were you able to dig up and find some more intimate details beyond, besides what her legal profession or legal career? >> i was, as a result of speaking to her colleagues, friends, family members. it really, rose, was like, you know, a detective story. you know? just trying to figure out how the pieces fit together. she wrote an autobiography which was helpful in terms of establishing the scope of her legal career and even some reflections on life when she was on the bench. but there was very little personal in there. so i read that book so many
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times just looking for any little thing, any clue about her interior life and i was able to piece some thing together. and i am have grateful to the people who sat down for interviews with me, because it was just so vital, helpful to me. >> that's where i want to shift next, and talk about your approach. which was tougher, the researching or the writing? >> i love to write. i really do. i love to cavity sentences and try to find just the right word for what i want to convey. there was a lot of writing in this book. you think about 450 pages. to the extent i was doing a lot of it and trying to write what i was -- when i was juggling many other responsibilities, that was very. but i would say the researching
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was very, very challenging, because of what i was talking about, really needing to try to piece together the personality of someone who was fundamentally a private person. and also just the -- you know, i wrote about -- it is a birth to death biography. that means i had to do a search about nevis, went to nevis, which was nice. it's beautiful island. and i actually was able to appreciate better her personality and culture from observing, being on nevis. toyed learn about the history of new haven and new york. she had a career in new york city politics. and that was, you know, very involved. and then all of the legal cases. and then her life on the bench, which involved yet another round
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of legal cases and personalities. and i enjoyed doing the research but it was very challenging including because, you know, biography is just a different genre. it demands of you a level of attention to detail. and frankly, with writing the biography of constance baker motley, i felt a great responsibility to get it exactly right, to do my very best for her. i was in contact with her family. and having -- i knew them for -- i have known them now for a decade because that's how long it took from idea to publication to write this book. and over time, you get to know people, and you develop bonds with them. and i really just wanted to get this exactly right.
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[ indiscernible ] >> i have my scholarship that i am doing. but i have my day job. my teaching. and then i became an administrator at radcliffe. and that is just a lot -- juggling a lot of jobs. >> i have been there with that. i wanted to also focus on another prominent notable individual, obviously, that is dr. martin luther king jr. and their relationship, and how she came to work on a case for him. >> uh-huh. a couple of cases for him. they had a great relationship. it stands in contrast to some of what's been written about king and, say, ella baker, who had a difficult relationship. motley's relationship with him was very good. he spoke so highly of her, he put her in the same class as
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thurgood marshall and clarence darrell and others who, in his view, were you know, lawyers who really supported the struggle for social justice. she was a movement lawyer, which is to say, she was very interested in supporting the non-violent struggle for racial equality. and thurgood marshall was quite skeptical of it. he saw king as an upstart, and he was concerned that the protests would get someone killed. he was concerned about, you know, the way in which the needing to bail out protesters drained resources. but motley really admired king. and she represented him in albany when he was jailed during
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those protests. and then she represented him and the birmingham movement a year later in an incredibly vital way. she helped get him released when he was in the birmingham jail and then when the birmingham movement turned to using children in the mass movement, there was retaliation by the school superintendent. he suspended or expelled all of those children. and motley went to court and had that reversed. and so there is a way -- she is the savior of the movement in birmingham. little known chapter. >> baker evans, medgar evans, malcolm x, martin luther king, those three assassinations, so many lost their lives. do you give the readers insight
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as to how that might have affected her emotionally? do we know how those deaths might have affected her? those were people she knew and who she worked with? >> that's right. in the excerpt i read from i note that she was really broken up by the death of medgar evers. he was her constant companion when she was in mississippi. he drove her back and forth to the courthouse, federal courthouse, where she was litigating that case. and she tells stories -- this is from oral history -- about how frightening it was being in mississippi. they would -- there are instance where is the state police was tailing them. and you know, evers, who is accustomed to this would say
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things to her like "don't look back" "don't look back" or "look straightforward. the state police are on our tail" or he would tell her, put your legal pad away. don't do your work. put the legal pad inside the "new york times" because he didn't want -- if they were stopped -- the police to see she was doing the intellectual work of the civil rights movement. she was quite devastated by the death, by the death of dr. king, and experienced trauma, you know, from some of those incident. title one of my chapters on the meredith case, it includes the word "trauma". so james meredith was
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famously -- he appeared vacant when he was experiencing all of the pushback, as he was walking around on campus. he seemed to not have any expression. but, of course, inside he did. he was just wearing his armor in order to get through. and i would say that motley had her moments of being that pay as well. and a part of the guardedness was because the situation demanded it. she did not have time to sit in a corner and cry, which i'm sure she might have wanted to do on some occasions. >> would you say she did sacrifice a lot in terms of her family but had such a supportive husband a supportive mate throughout all of this as well. >> and that was vital to her
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ability to do what she did. she was married to a real estate broker, a harlem real estate broker who had his own office and allowed him some flexibility which allowed him to do things like chauffeur her to work every day when she was at the courthouse and then come and pick her up. then he would wait for her when she finished up. she was a workaholic, everyone says. and so finishing up could stretch into one or two hours. and he was there for her. he was a co-parent during an era when it just wasn't typical for men to be fully invested in the caring for a child. and was just a doting spouse. and i think it is so special. i mean, it is atypical of that era for a man to have a wife
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such as motley, and then to not be bothered by it. but i will tell you something, rose, that i think is reveal asking sort of funny and strikes me as true. when she was asked later in her life about her husband's support, she said, well, i wasn't making any money. if i had been making some money, he might have had a problem with me. but he was always making more than her and had this independent business. and she thought that that was vital to his willingness to, you know, to in some sense be overshadowed by her. >> did you get everything you wanted into this book? you mention it is 400 pages. it's the 400 pages. it may have been hard to -- it may be hard to believe you if you didn't. but did you get everything you
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wanted to in her? >> i think so. i may have covered some of her businesses cases while she was on the court. here's why i thought about doing that. the book is about how being the civil rights queen was a double edged sword. it is one of the reasons she wasn't promoted to the court of appeals or the supreme court. and it meant that the cases for which she was most famous as a judge were civil rights cases. and i thought that it might have been nice to write one more chapter about the business case, just to break the pattern. but it is true that the most important cases that she decided tended to be in the civil rights realm. so i compromised by in the epilogue citing some of those
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cases. but i didn't go into detail. >> i wanted to get into some questions before we ends our conversation. this is one from kate. kate writes as the first black woman appointed to the federal bench what advice do you think she would have for the first black female supreme court justice? >> so, that's a good question. i would say, in terms of the new mexico nomination and confirmation process she might say buckle your seat belt. right? because as we have already seen. it is going to be trying. it is going to be challenging. and she is nominees are put in a position of not being able to speak except within the on the text of the hearing it self. so over the past few days, you know, you have heard joe biden speaking, and joe manchin and jim clyburn, and you know, others, but the women themselves
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can't speak. and, you know, so they aren't able to define themselves, really, and have to rely on others to define them. i know that that was something that motley was sensitive to. she also would say, though -- she would note that there is some weight that comes with representation. right? and yet, ultimately, motley she decided cases in the way she thought they needed to be decided based on the law and the facts. and once she was on the bench although some people thought she would just be a mouth piece for the movement she actually was not. she called them as she saw them. and that meant that sometimes she wasn't ruling in the way that some thought she should given her background as a civil
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rights lawyer. so i know that she would advise the nominee to do the same. >> was queen motley ever embraced by her white peers on the bench? i have got to kell you -- i hope y'all can hear me. can you hear me? >> yes. >> there is a picture in the book of -- i will let you explain it. but she stands out. and i think this picture says a lot. but i will let you answer that. was she ever embraced by her white peers on the bench? >> remember, she was on the bench for decades. and at the end of her judicial career, she had been joined by sonia sotomayor, who was a judge on the southern district before she went to the court of appeals and then the supreme court. kemba wood, and other women
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joined the bench during her time as judge. at the beginning, things were a bit dicey. and she does -- she does tell stories about how some of the judges, the men, very clearly did not want her around. the most heart breaking one that i recount in the book is the back story to her never going to the cafeteria, or hardly ever going to the cafeteria at the federal courthouse. and it was because when she first joined the bench and went to that cafeteria one of her colleagues made it clear that he didn't want her there. so she seldom went back. instead, her law clerks would go and fetch her lunch. and so it was a lasting legacy of exclusion, really, or, you
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know, the loneliness of being constance baker motley for many years before other women and people of color started to join the bench. that did not happen very frequently until jimmy carter was appointed -- excuse me -- was elected president. he appointed a number of black and women judges. but that was, you know, many years before -- while she was alone for many years. >> here's another question. since she was married to a real estate broker, did she have input in federal fair housing legislation? >> input in federal. i don't know that she had input. but she was deeply interested in housing segregation and litigated some of these cases. and -- in housing discrimination. in fact, when they moved to
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their apartment on the -- in the west end, they actually -- they deseg bratted the apartment building themselves and encountered initially a little bit of resistance. but the apartment owners thought better of that. that would not have been a good move, to try to exclude the famous civil rights lawyer. >> here's a question from marguerite. she writes, over the years of writing your book, what did you find to be the great challenge to writing it? >> well, i would say it's what i was mentioning before, that she was so private. and it's not only a matter of personality. it's that judges famously will go so far as to destroy their personal correspondence because they actually don't want people to know their thought process in deciding cases.
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and so there was that challenge. and then just the challenge of her own person head where she didn't -- she didn't want to divulge very much. >> what was judge motley's relationship with james meredith after he was admitted to ol' miss and after his graduation. do we know? >> we know a little bit. she helped -- she wrote him a letter of recommendation for columbia law school. and you know, noted that he ran for office. and i think she always had a soft spot for james meredith. he went through hell doing what he did. and she respected that. she understood that. and i'm quite sure that, you know, when he went through sort of a political evolution that she probably raised her eyebrows. but she was not a particularly
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judgmental person. she wanted to know what made people tick, and not so much to pass judgment. and of course she had been in politics herself. and just had a good sense of what was required there and actually was notably endorsed by all three political parties when she plan for manhattan bureau president. so republican, democrat, and i think it was called the liberal party. so good relationship with him. and she felt responsibility to care for him as she did many of her clients. >> i understand she was working on cases just even weeks before her death. was it in 2005? >> 2005, yes.
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she took senior status in 1986, i believe it was. the judges even after they were formally retired they can continue to hear and work on cases. one of the things that i note is she was so gracious in inviting some of the new judges out to lunch and saying to them, you know, give me your worst case. this is a story from kemba wood. give me your longest trial and i will take that off your hands, as a way of giving them some space to acclimate to the bench. which is just indicative of the way she lived her life. just such a good, decent person. and so supportive of others who came after her. and that's one of the most inspiring things about her. she was first in so many contexts, but she wanted to make sure she was not last. >> you know, when we started this conversation, i talked about my research, going back
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and watching some of the interviews. there was one interview where she says, i know there are many young blacks who view me as a role model. i'm aware of that. and then the interviewer replies, and you are glad about it? to where she responded, of course. >> yes, a woman of few words at times. she knows what she meant to others. she enjoyed being noticed and known. and i had the experience when i was working in that same federal courthouse clerking for another judge seeing her essentially float through the hallways. people admired her. she was striking, almost six feet tall. and she certainly was a role model, a mentor. and i think that was very important to her. >> here's a question for you. it is from tierra.
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she says i am starting a black student union in my school. do you have any advice? >> for a black student union. huh. is this a high school? >> i am not sure. doesn't say. >> well, i think it's great to have community with others who can help you move along with your goals and support you when you encounter difficulty. so glad to hear it. >> and this is from mccray, who writes z she ever regret joining the jish rather rather than continuing to litigate and argue cases before the supreme court and other courts given judges are restricted from making public statements or otherwise being involved in politics or social activism? >> good question. i would say, no, she didn't regret it.
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but there is some literature that raises the question of whether the question whether constance baker motley, bob carter, thurgood marshall to the bench had the per veers consequence of undermining the civil rights movement. all these great spots who were appointed to the bench. and that took them out of the arena of struggle in the courts. but i don't think she regretted it. i think she liked being a judge. she really did. she thought she was making a difference in the lives of many people. she was a fair judge. and i think she got a lot of satisfaction from it. >> correct me if i'm wrong, dean, did she win nine of the ten cases argued before the supreme court?
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>> she did. she did, yes. quite a record there. >> you are an academic, obviously. and of course you are an author. what's next for you? >> what's next for me? i am not sure what's next for me. i am enjoying my role in academia as an administrator. i am able to do a lot for a lot of people. i teach still. i was teaching today a freshman seminar. and i love interacting with the students and trying to help them -- many of them want to go to law school. help them, explain the advantages and disadvantages of using the legal system for change. and i'm not sure. probably am just going to keep doing what i am doing for a while.
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>> what do you think there is a very, very small percentage of black lawyers? i read the statistics every year try to see where -- the other day i had a conversation about the medical field and how you know there is such a small percentage of black males going into the medical field and you counter that with the percentage of blacks in the legal field in terms of attorneys. why do you think that's still so low? >> well, i think that one has to start early to prepare oneself for these advanced degrees and often times the students aren't doing that. they don't have role models and there's the enduring problem of schools that are attended overwhelmingly by people of color being underfunded which can lead to a lack of preparation, which has
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implications. and so i would say it's so important to get people on the right track from an early age, and to make sure that there are role models there and, you know, at my institution, the ratcliffe institute, we have an emerging leaders program which exposes high school students to college students who, you know, have knowledge about how to pursue certain careers. and, you know, it's something that is a real problem and i would commend the legal field to, you know, people who might have an interest in change or in working on wall street. it's an invaluable tool for life. >> she writes, i'm thinking of going into a field of study where there is almost no black women. what advice would you give in my situation?
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>> well, i would say that you have to cultivate and find mentors and sponsors from a variety of backgrounds. you know, if i had relied on the availability of black one as -- of black women as mentors or sponsors i would still be where i started because there really were not. it was pretty late in my career, in my education, and very few. and so those who do exist tend to be overburdened by the need to mentor and sponsor the women and the people of color who end up, you know, in higher education and these fields. so you have to look for mentors elsewhere.
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you know, i feel like in my career i'm sort of just -- i made people mentor me. it could -- it could be the case that, you know, some people might be a little uncomfortable, they don't know what to do with you. that's okay. they can learn how to -- you do have to do some work to let people know, you're just a person and you have goals like everybody else, and i also think though that you have to -- i think there are friends in a lot of different places, and i would just commend trying to do your best to find role models and mentors wherever you can. >> and i'll add this, if you are in a position that you can and you have a little bit of time, you never know five minutes that you take with someone or ten
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minutes or someone seeing you speak, you never know how inspiring that is and what that can lead to for that individual who witnesses that. final question is who should read "civil rights queen?" >> everybody. everybody. i think it's a book that as i said can be inspiring to a whole range of people. gender is a lens, it's an intersectional analysis of gender and i commend it to to anyone who wants to be inspired by this remarkable woman who did so much, even though she started off with so little. >> it is called "civil rights queen" constance baker motley and the struggle for eequality, dean tomiko brown-nagin, thank you for the conversation. i wish it could have been in person, but thank you. >> thank you, rose, i enjoyed i. >> claire, all yours. >> thank you so much for such an intriguing conversation and what an incredible woman, incredible life.
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kind of hard to believe it was just one life, how much she did during it. so dean tomiko brown-nagin, thank you for your scholarship and all of the countless hours of work that went into the book. i can't even imagine. >> thank you, claire, for having me. i appreciate it. weekends on c-span 2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday, american history tv documents america's story and on sundays, book tv brings you the latest in nonfiction books and authors. funding for c-span2 comes from these television companies and more, including cox. cox is committed to providing eligible families access to affordable internet through the connect to compete program. bridging the digital divide one connected and engaged student at a time. cox, bringing us closer. >> cox, along with these
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television companies supports c-span2 as a public service. >> c schwan, browse through the latest collection of products, apparel, books, home decor and accessories. there's something for every fan and every purchase helps to support our nonprofit operations. shop now or at any time at c-span good evening, everybody. i'm very happy to welcome you to the hoover institution and to welcome our distinguished speaker, andrew roberts. i think everybody realizes who he is and what he's done. he's the author of "churchill walking with destiny, leadership in war, the storm of war, et cetera, et cetera. he was educated with his botch


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