The inspiring impact of Judge Constance Baker Motley - Cynthia Plouché

At the Independent Directors Council’s annual Fund Directors Conference in Chicago we were introduced to the work of Federal Judge Constance Baker Motley. Constance Baker Motley was a civil rights lawyer, New York state politician, and the first Black woman appointed to the federal judiciary. She was the first Black woman to attend the Columbia University School of Law and received her law degree there in 1946.

Upon learning about her story, work, determination, and resilience, I was struck by Judge Motley’s impact. Her strong yet quiet demeanor is inspiring. Her work has been instrumental in creating greater access to higher educational institutions. Referred to as an unlikely civil rights hero, her story is compelling, being the first Black woman to be appointed to the federal judiciary and the first Black woman to attend Columbia University.

The US Courts Judiciary Newsletter published an article about Judge Motley that highlights some interesting facts about her.

Constance Baker Motley was an unlikely civil rights hero. An African American who grew up near Yale University, she did not personally experience overt racism until late in high school, and as a young person, she was almost totally unaware of Black history.”

“But from the late 1940s through the early 1960s, Motley played a pivotal role in the fight to end racial segregation, putting her own safety at risk in one racial powder keg after another. She was the first African American woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court, and the first to serve as a federal judge.”

“For all her achievements, Motley’s legacy has receded with time — at least outside the federal Judiciary, where she is revered by the many judges and clerks she mentored. During Black History Month, she is celebrated far less often than Thurgood Marshall, whom she served as a key lieutenant, and Martin Luther King, Jr., whom Motley represented at critical moments.”

To learn more about the life and triumphs of Federal Judge Constance Baker Motley, you can watch the documentary created by her son, The Trials of Constance Baker Motley.

Judge Motley is an inspiration to me, reminding me of the strength that comes with a clear sense of purpose and the importance of acknowledging the trailblazers who came before us.

With our not-for-profit Alzenia Project, we are leveraging impact of other nonprofits committed to helping young women, especially women of color. Check out our website for more information..

Cynthia R. Plouché is the founder and CEO of The Alzenia Project, a nonprofit organization that leverages the impact of other nonprofits to help young women of color achieve personal and professional growth. Along with her devotion to advancing diversity, Cynthia is also an inspiring business leader. She has a successful career in investment management, including more than 10 years as co-founder and chief investment officer of a woman-owned firm and culminating in ongoing corporate board leadership within the mutual fund industry.

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