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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

Constance Baker Motley papers

Repository: Smith College. Sophia Smith Collection

Collection Description (Extant): Judge, lawyer, civil rights advocate, and state senator. The bulk of the Motley papers document her professional life; material includes speeches, interviews, photographs, and memorabilia. The collection sheds light on the successes and failures of programs that emerged from the public policy applications of civil rights in such areas as the war on poverty and race discrimination; urban renewal; and in the New York State courts and political systems. Notable correspondents include: Bella Abzug, Brooke Astor, Shirley Chisholm, Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon B. Johnson, Florynce Kennedy, Dorothy Kenyon, Martin Luther King, Jr., John V. Lindsay, George McGovern, Floyd B. McKissick, James Meredith, Pauli Murray, A. Philip Randolph, and Robert F. Wagner. Individuals represented in speeches and published sources include Jack [Greenberg], Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thurgood Marshall.

An 801-page transcript of an interview with Motley, conducted by Mrs. Walter Gellhorn of the Oral History Research Office at Columbia University Law Library, completes this series. In this interview Judge Motley recalls her childhood and family; her education; her work with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; and her political and judicial careers. The interview was conducted in 1976 and the transcript was completed in 1978. The original tapes are housed at the Columbia Law Library.

This series contains mostly typescripts of speeches written and delivered by Motley from 1963 to 1988. They are arranged chronologically and in some cases are accompanied by fliers, posters, or other printed material. Related correspondence, (invitations and responses, travel arrangements, etc.) can be found in SERIES II. CORRESPONDENCE-General. The bulk of the speeches are from Motley's term as Manhattan Borough President in 1965. Recurring topics include civil rights; urban development (especially in Harlem) and neighborhood programs (such as the Henry Street Settlement); equality in education; women in politics and the legal profession; and leadership in the black community. In addition there are tributes to prominent individuals; commencement speeches; fundraising for community organizations; civic events; and papers given at panels, conferences and lecture series.

Access Copy Note: The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Date(s): 1948-1988

Digital Status: No

Existing IDs: MS 110

Extent: 16 boxes (6 linear ft.)

Finding Aid URL: External Link

Language: English

Interviewees: Constance Baker Motley

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights

Rights (Extant): Constance Baker Motley retains copyright ownership of her papers. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." Copyright to materials created by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns.


African American lawyers
African American women civil rights workers
African Americans--Civil rights
Civil rights--Cases
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Urban renewal




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   September 26, 2018
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