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tv   Tomiko Brown- Nagin Civil Rights Queen  CSPAN  April 18, 2022 2:50am-3:51am EDT

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michelle obama a lawyer mother of two daughters and the nation's first african american first lady first ladies in their own words is also available as a podcast and you can find it wherev that matters,
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america is watching on c-span. powered by cable. welcome, everyone, to our virtual author talk series. i'm the vice president of public relations and programs here for the history center. it's absolutely my pleasure to welcome you to tonight's event featuring tomika brown megan. talking about her book out recently called "civil rights queen." if you haven't yet purchased your copy of the book, you are missing out. it's an incredible story about an incredible woman. you can find a link to purchase the book from atlanta history center in the chat. tonight it's 25% off. we offer domestic u.s. shipping as well as in-store pickup if you are local to the atlanta area. we encourage you to support the dean and the book and purchase
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your copy from atlanta history center. she's appointed chair of the presidential committee on harvard and the legacy of slavery in 2019 is a member of the american academy of artz and sciences, philosophical society and american law institute. she's had many other accolades which we can't get to in our short intro tonight. but rest assured, you are in for a really wonderful conversation. she's in conversation tonight with rose scott, if you are familiar at all with atlanta, you know rose scott's voice over the airways. she's an award winning journalist. has been reporting in atlanta for more than two decades. is currently the host of "closer look."
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welcome, rose. we are happy to have you here tonight. i'm going to turn it over to the dean. she has a reading from the book and then we will move on to the conversation. thank you, again, for being here. >> i'm going to read a selection from a chapter of my book on notally's most famous case, the battle to desegregate ole miss. this man has got to be crazy, thurgood marshall yelled in january of 1961. that's your case. marshall waved a letter. it contained such a preposterous idea that marshall thought the writer must be out of his mind. i am submitting an application
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for admission to the university of mississippi meredith wrote and i'm anticipating encountering difficulties with the various agencies here in the state. in view of the brewing trouble, meredith requested marshall's legal assistance. after marshall finished laughing about meredith's proposal to sue ole miss, he washed his hands of the case. marshall knew motley had the skills. she thought they are gender would be an advantage. the fight might get someone killed. in the context of mississippi's white supremacist culture as marshall saw it, a black woman would fare better than a black man. any white supremacist, he opined, would scarily think twice about murdering a black man. but might hesitate to lynch a
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black woman. the very idea of a black woman lawyer violently clashed with the world view of the white male lawyer who defended ole miss. he refused to address this. he used indirect references calling motley her or she. at one point early on, she jumped to her feet in a bid to put an end to the charade. the tipping point occurred when he called her constance. motley immediately objected. i would like for him not to call me by my first name. henceforth, the lawyer referred to motley as the new york counsel. after months of struggle and endless delays, meredith had enough. browbeaten, meredith wrote to motley, resign.
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will not attempt to obtain an undergraduate degree from the university of mississippi. aware that mot ye, who poured herself into the case, would be disappointed in his decision, meredith pleaded for understanding. i am human after all. meredith had grown tired of waiting for deliverance that never came. his peers had moved on. they endured a high cost fighting to integrate the university of mississippi. motley was stunned by the message. in order to salvage her case and support her client, motley went to therapist, a role she often placed. to get a handle on the situation, the pair would talk in motley's new york city apartment. there motley cajoled meredith.
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she persuaded him that he had gone too far and that too much had been invested in the case by the fund and the federal court of appeals to abandon the litigation. support arrived. precisely as motley promised. on september 10, 192, u.s. supreme court justice black intervened, halting any further action preventing james meredith's ma trick lags to ole miss. and fellowship with his wife and their children. only one month after motley left
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mississippi for the last time, 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 funeral. nevertheless, she left the state victorious. motley emerged at one of the most respected lawyers in america. a story in "the new york times" titled "integration's advocate" captured the professional heights to which motley had soared. i'm quoting, a tall striking woman with piercing dark eyes is almost always in the courtroom in the eye of the hurricane surrounding the struggle for civil rights in the south. motley's fight to deseg great ole miss brought her public esteem and professional success along with devastating loss and profound pain. thank you. >> thank you, dean. again, welcome, everyone.
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full disclosure. that's from page 176. that's the exact excerpt that i had chosen. i got it highlighted. that's the excerpt i was going to reference. how about that? welcome, everyone. one of my favorite quotes from an extraordinary person, dean, is ida b. wells from "crusade for justice." she said, there must be a remedy for wrong and injustice if we only know how to find it. that's my approach as a journalist. i'm excited to be in conversation with you. also to talk about this extraordinary person constance baker motley and your book "the struggle for equality." we do want to invite the virtual audience to drop questions into
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the q & a. we will weave some into our conversation. what stood out to me was this very visible, innate desire she possessed in finding, through the legal corridors, a remedy for wrong injustice, which is what i referenced with ida b. wells there. what was so apparent for me, we can't describe this woman in one sentence. but if you had to, how would you describe constance baker motley to someone who knew nothing about her? >> in one word, i would say she was fierce. just fierce.
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and yet a reserved person. regal. it's not just me who have referred to her as a queen. i got the title from a journalist who crowned her the queen. it's interesting, when i was interviewing various people, including her clerks, people would call her a queen. this was before they knew that my book was going to be titled queen. she was regal in her presence. just committed to the struggle for equality. the james meredith case, the struggle to desegregate ole miss, brings to the fore how much she had to sacrifice as she litigated that case going to mississippi time and time again under threat of her life. she just got out in time, essentially, is the way she felt. there were many moments of
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struggle. she had a young son and a husband back in new york. 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 book, you take the reader -- before you take the reader through her life, you make it very clear that a good part of why you are doing -- why you wrote this book is because there has been little recognition and historical recognition for this woman. that's at the core of what led you to start writing this book. >> that's right. and i should say that i came to know about how relatively little had been written about constance baker motley when i wrote my book about the struggle for civil rights in atlanta. motley mitigated the atlanta
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school desegregation case all the way to the supreme court. spent plenty of time in atlanta. a part of my method for drawing people into that story was to write a biographical sketch of each lawyer, includes motley. i was just blown away by how relatively little there was out there. 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. certainly, when we lose the lens of gender, it matters to tell the story of the black freedom movement through the eyes of a woman. it's inspiring to know her story. 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 book.
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i have mine. the very first page we read a poem from a young -- i think she's 15 years old. >> yes. >> striking what she writes. you want to share some of that with the audience? >> sure. let's see. i will read you some of her words. it was extraordinary. i had the pleasure of being 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 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 this is the place he meant. she goes on to talk about her surroundings in new haven.
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she says, i don't think this is the world that god invented. that's not what he meant to create. she was talking about 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. we should note her parents were on board with this is my path i'm seeking here, mom and dad. >> they were not. it's an intriguing part of the story. there are two parts to the story. first of all, her background, her parents were west indian immigrants, was defining for her. they taught her to be culturally conservative. she believed in the politics of
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respectability. they liked being a part of the british empire. they taught her as well that she and west indians were special. her father in particular looked down upon african americans, southern blacks in particular, saying that they allowed themselves to be debased by jim crow. and yet, her parents' deep interest in her and belief in her were vital to her aspirations. and yet, neither parent thought that she would get very far in the law. her parents and others whom she divulged her interest in law school to said, you've got to be crazy. women don't become lawyers. it was a curious aspiration for
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a young black girl from the working class in new haven. >> do you take the reader through when that ideology changed for them, when the patienc parents' ideology -- do you take the reader through and changed and motley began her legal career? >> i don't talk very much about her parents and their perspective on her career. her father died relatively early in her career. 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 new haven for many years. took care of them.
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ultimately, 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, philanthropist, who paid for her college and her law school after being so impressed with a talk she gave at a community center in new haven. >> let's advance a little bit and let's talk about mentors and sponsors. let's get into the first meeting with thurgood marshall. >> well, the story i tell is about how marshall hired her on the spot. when she came to the law office as a student as columbia law school, he was impressed with her. he told her stories about the
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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. 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 climb a ladder during that first interview evidently and was sort
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of admiring her figure, which is a little jarring to modern ears. and yet as i explained in the book, this is an era when "jet" magazine had a centerfold. it was perceived as a compliment for men to respond to women in that way. i did want to include that part of the story in the book in order to reinforce that, we're telling the story through the eyes of a woman. i think for many women, that is a completely relatable story. >> their relationship in terms of working together, obviously, one aspect. the personal respect that they had for each other, you draw on that in the book. >> yes. absolutely. she often said that he made her
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career. if there had not -- if it had not been for thurgood marshall, no one could have heard of constance baker motley, she said. he said of her that connie walked in and took over. meaning, she litigated 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 accustom at all to being questioned by a black person, certainly not a black woman. marshall supported her career and was there with her, including on the day that she was sworn in as the first black woman to have a seat on the federal judiciary. >> this is probably a good time to talk about lyndon johnson,
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president johnson and the feedback, if you want to call it that, that president johnson received, let's just call it what i is, hateful and racist responses to what he had done. you lay it out in the book. in 2022, think about and we read about it, that happened. in that moment, we are talking about in the '60s here. people should understand that this could have been life-threatening to her with this appointment. >> well, there are two things i would say about that. first of all, lyndon johnson was so proud to have appointed constance baker motley to the bench. he vetted her comprehensively. talked to all of the civil rights establishment.
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talked to some of the judges who had heard her argue. even supreme court justices and others in the federal government. 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'm 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. you have to note that the district court that she joined in manhattan was nations -- and still is the nation's most prestigious. the judges hear a lot of
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financial litigation. there were those who thought that she wasn't suitable. after she was appointed, some people did write in to lyndon johnson and say that, why did you do this? the bench has been preserved for legal scholars and people who are well-known. i quote -- it's the last sentence of the chapter -- the administration, one of johnson's aides writing back. she was not appointed because she was a negro. 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 woman who wrote just some very nasty comments. i want to go back for a moment. we were talking about mentors.
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what about in terms of women? who were her mentors? who were the folks she looked to in those times where she was having some issues or someone she confided in? who were those 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 tea, talking about literature. they did that for her. she was grateful. and introduced her to the writing of w.b. debois and james weldon. she thought of jane boland as a
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role model. jane was the first black woman graduate of yale law school and went on to an appointment on the new york domestic relations court. during her career, she turned to people like bella abzug who was a law school classmate and the first woman elected to congress from new york. shirley chisolm, pauline murray. they had different personalities, approaches. motley was in many ways more moderate and reserved, wore a mask in the way that the others likely did not. they were a support group, i would say, for her. >> when you say wore a mask, dissect that further for our audience. >> sure. she kept herself to herself.
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she had this imperial demeanor. she held herself back a bit. 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 reserved. she was private. one of the really need things about writing this book was figuring all of that out. because she wasn't helping me. >> that was going to be my question. that's actually one of my questions. in your research for this, i
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wanted to know were you able to dig up and find some more intimate details beyond, besides her league profession, her league career? >> i was. as a result of speaking to her colleagues, friends, family members. it really, rose, was like a detective story. you know? 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 once she was on the bench. but there was very little personal in there. i read that book so many times. just looking for any little thing, any clue about her interior life. i was able to piece some things together.
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and very 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 too shift next and talk about your approach. which was tougher the research or the writing? >> i love to write. i really do. i love to craft sentences and try to find just the right word for what i want to convey. there was a lot of writing with this book. i think about 450 pages. to the extent i was doing a lot of it and trying to write when i was juggling many other responsibilities, that was difficult. but i would say the researching was very, very challenging. because of what i was talking about, really needing to try to piece together the personality
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of someone who was fundamentally a private person. also, just -- i wrote about -- it's a birth to death biography. that means i had to do a search about nevus. went to nevus, which was nice. it's a beautiful island. i actually was able to appreciate better her personality and culture from observing, being on nevus. i had to learn about the history of new haven and new york. she had a career in new york city politics. that was very involved. all of the legal cases. then her life on the bench, which involved yet another round of legal cases and personalities. i enjoyed doing the research. it was very challenging.
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including the -- biography is a different genre. it demands a level of attention to detail. with writing the biography, i felt a great responsibility to get it exactly right, to do my very best for her. i was in contact with her family. 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. over time, you get to know people. you develop bonds with them. i really just wanted to get this exactly right. i have my scholarship i'm doing. but i have my day job, my teaching and then i became an
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administrator at radcliffe. there's a lot -- juggling a lot of jobs. >> i've been there with that. i want to focus on another prominent, notable individual. that is dr. martin luther king junior and their relationship and how she came to work on a case for him. >> a couple of cases with him. they had a great relationship. it stands in contrast to some of what's been written about king and ella baker, who had a difficult relationship. motley's relationship with him was very good. he spoke highly of her. he put her in the same class as thurgood marshall and clarence darrow and others who in his view were lawyers who really supported struggle for social
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justice. she was a movement lawyer, which is to say, she was very interested in supporting the non-violent struggle for racial equality. thurgood marshall was quite skeptical of it. he saw king as an upstart. he was concerned that the protests would get someone killed. he was concerned about the way in which needs to bail out protesters drained resources. motley really admired king. she represented him in albany when he was jailed during the protests. then she represented him and the birmingham movement a year later
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in an incredibly vital way. she helped get him released when he was in the birmingham jail. 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. motley went to court and had that reversed. there's a way in which -- she's a savior of the movement in birmingham. little known chapter. >> so many who lost their lives. do you give the reader insight into all that affected her emotionally or mentally? she was very guard and very private. do we know how those might have affected her?
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these are people she knew and she worked with. >> that's right. in the excerpt i read from, i note that she was really broken up by the death of evers. he was her constant companion when she was in mississippi. he drove her back and forth to the courthouse -- photograph -- federal courthouse where she was litigating the case. she tells stories about how frightening it was being in mississippi. there are instances where the state police was tailing them. evers, who was accustom to this, would say things like, don't look back. look straightforward. don't pay attention. the state police are on our tail.
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he would tell her, put that 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 that she was doing the intellectual work of the civil rights movement. she was quite devastated by the death of dr. king and experienced trauma from some of those incidents. it includes the word trauma. james meredith was famously -- he appeared vacant when he was experiencing all of the pushback, as he was walking around on campus.
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he seemed to not have any expression. inside, he did. he was just wearing his armor in order to get through. i would say that motley had her moments of being that way as well. 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. >> i want to get more personal into her life. would you say she did sacrifice a lot in terms of family, but has such a supportive husband, a supportive mate through all of this as well? >> that was vital to her ability to do what she did. she was married to a real estate broker, harlem real estate broker who fortunately had his
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own office. some flexibility, which allowed him to do things like chauffeur her to work every day when she was at the courthouse. then come and pick her up. he would wait for her while she finished up. she was a workaholic, everyone says. finishing up could stretch into one or two hours. he was there for her. he was a co-parent during an era when it wasn't typical for men to be fully invested in the caring for a child and was just a doting spouse. i think it's so special. i mean, it's atypical of that era for a man to have a wife such as motley and then to not be bothered by it. i will tell you something, rose.
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i think it's revealing and 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 money, he might have had a problem with me. he was always making more than her and had this independent business. she thought that that was vital to his willingness to in some sense be overshadowed by her. >> did you get everything you wanted into the book? you mentioned it's 400 pages. it's hard to believe you didn't, but did you get everything in here you wanted? >> i would say so. i might have covered some of her business cases in detail. this is from her time on the court. but i thought -- here is why i thought of doing that.
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one of the themes of the book is about how being the civil rights queen is a double-edged sword. her identity was weaponized against her. it's one of the reasons she wasn't promoted to the court of appeals or to the supreme court. it meant the cases for which she was most famous as 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 the cases but i didn't go into detail. >> i want to get into some questions before we end our conversation. and this is one from kate, who
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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, you know, in terms of that nomination and confirmation process she might say, buckle your seat belt, right, because as we have already seen it's going to be trying. it's going to challenging, and these nominees are put in a position of not really being able to speak except within the context of the hearing itself. and so over the past few days, you know, you have heard joe biden speaking and joe manchin and jim clyburn and others, but the women themselves can't speak. and, you know, so they aren't
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able to define themselves, really, and they have to rely on others to define them and i know that is something that motley was sensitive to. she also would say, though, she would note that there are 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 that she would just be a mouthpiece 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 rights lawyer. so i know that she would advise the nominee to do the same. >> was queen motley ever
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embraced by her white peers on the bench? i have to tell you, i hope you all can hear me, can you all hear me? >> yes. >> there's a picture in the book of -- now that you explain it, but she stands out. i think this picture says a lot but i'll let you answer that. was she ever embraced by her white peers on the bench? >> so 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. kimba wood, and other women joined the bench during her time as a judge. at the beginning, things were a bit dicey and she does -- she
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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 courthouse and it was because when she first joined the bench and went to that court -- to that cafeteria, one of her colleagues made it clear that he didn't want her there. and 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 of, you know, the loneliness of being constance baker motley for many years before other women and people of color
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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 and litigated some of those cases and in housing discrimination. in fact, when they moved to their apartment on the -- in the west end, they actually -- they
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desegregated 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, over the years of writing your book, what did you find to be the great challenge to writing? >> 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 and so there was that challenge and then just the challenge of her own personhood where she didn't -- she didn't want to divulge very much.
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>> what was judge watley's relationship with james meredith after he was admitted to ole 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, knowing 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 judgmental person. she wanted to know what made
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people tick, and not so much to pass judgment. and, of course, she had been in politics herself and she had a good sense of what was required there and actually was notably endorsed by all three political parties when she ran for manhattan borough president. manhattan democrat, 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. so she took senior status in 1986 i believe it was, and the judges -- even after they are formally retired, they can
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continue to hear and work on cases and 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 kimba wood. give me your longest trial and i'll 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. 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 and watching some of the interviews and there was one interview where she says i know that there are many young blacks who view
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me as a role model, i'm aware of that and then the interviewer replied you're glad about it, to where she responded, of course. >> yes. a woman of few words sometimes. she knew 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 of seeing her essentially float through the hallways and people admired her. she was striking. almost 6 feet tall, and she certainly was a role model, a mentor, and a i think that was very important to her. >> here's a question to you. i'm starting a black student union in my school. do you have any advice? >> for a black student union, huh.
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and is this a hugh school? >> i'm not sure. it doesn't say, but -- >> 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 difficulties. so i'm glad to hear it. >> and this is -- did she ever regret joining the judiciary rather than continue to argue cases before the supreme court given judges are restricted from making public statements or being involved in politics or social activism? >> good question, and i would say, no, she didn't regret it, but there is some literature that raises the question of
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whether the appointment of people like constance baker motley, bob carter, thurgood marshall to the bench had the perverse consequence of undermining the civil rights movement, right? there are others like robinson who were appointed to the bench and that took them out of the arena of struggle in the courts and -- which is unfortunate. but i don't think she regretted it. i think she liked being a judge. she really did. she thought that she was making a difference in the lives of many people. she was a fair judge and i think that she got a lot of satisfaction from it. >> and correct me if i'm wrong, did she win nine of the ten cases argued before the supreme court? >> she did. she did. yes. so quite a record there. >> you are an academic, and of course, an author. what is next for you? >> what's next for me?
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i'm not sure what's next for me. i'm enjoying my role in academia as an administrator. i'm able to do a lot for a lot of people. i teach still. i was teaching today, freshman seminar. i love interacting with the students and trying to help them -- many of whom 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 i'm just going to keep doing what i'm doing for a while. >> why do you think though, dean, there's still such a very, very small percentage of black lawyers? i read these statistics every year and try to see, you know, where -- the other day i had a
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conversation about the medical field and how, you know, there's 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 implications and so i would say it's so important to get people on the right track from an early able and to -- early age and to
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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? >> well, i would say that you
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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 mentors or sponsors i would still be where i started because there really were not. and so pretty -- so 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. you know, i feel like in my career i'm sort of just -- i
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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 minutes or someone is seeing you speak, you never know how inspiring that is and what that can lead to for that individual
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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 anyone who -- and i recommend it 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" and 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. kind of hard to believe it was just one life, how much she dido
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22. 22 are you numerologists? and i'm daniel weinberg and we're at the studio broadcast studio on abraham lincoln book shop in chicago over zoom and facebook live. we are an 83


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