Interview with Constance Baker Motley
QUESTION 44
INTERVIEWER:

IN THE TRIAL, I WONDER THE OTHER THING THAT I'VE READ ABOUT IN THE TRIAL, WAS THE OTHER [?], AND THE UNIVERSITY'S UNWILLINGNESS TO USE PEOPLE'S LAST NAMES—MR. MEREDITH FOR EXAMPLE, WAS CALLED "JAMES." WAS THAT TRUE?

Judge Constance Baker Motley:

Well, in Mississippi generally and throughout the south, for that matter it was a custom from slavery to address blacks either as boy or women by their first names. Black women were not accorded the dignity of being addressed as Miss or Mrs. And when I first went to Jackson Mississippi in 1949 thee I think it was the Jackson Daily News was the name of the newspaper, they refused to address me as Mrs. Motley, they referred to me as "the Motley woman" and some of the lawyers who opposed me in the cases which I brought in Mississippi refused to address me as "Mrs." Motley and of course that was something which surprised me a great deal, because I wasn't accustomed to that, having been born and reared in New Haven, Connecticut and living in New York, I knew about it but when it actually happens you are really shocked that any person who calls himself educated and professional like a lawyer would refuse to address another lawyer as Miss or Mrs. but that's what actually happened.