Interview with Constance Baker Motley


Judge Constance Baker Motley:

After the Supreme Court's decision in the Brown case, it was difficult for those of us who were on the staff, to anticipate what might happen throughout the country. As I told you, we had our own timetable for trying to enforce that decision by starting with the border states and moving south. But by 1960 we were surprised and taken unaware by the students who sat in at department store lunch counters in North Carolina. Here was a whole new dimension of the struggle which we had not anticipated. Prior to that, in 1956, or ‘58 I've forgotten which precisely, there was the Montgomery bus boycott where blacks demonstrated that beyond schools they were interested in the day-to-day indignities that they had to face and they wanted those wiped out, such as having to sit at the back of the bus and as you know Rosa Parks then resisted sitting in the back of the bus and that led to a whole new movement among blacks to do away with segregation in transportation, the Freedom Riders then followed. And things like that which kind of as they say, overshadowed for the moment it appeared, the Brown decision. But actually these things were the result of the Brown decision. I think the Brown decisions' greatest impact was on the black community, which took courage and decided I guess that they did have an ally, and that was the Supreme Court, and that all the things which had demeaned them for years, and, uh, things which they thought would never be done away with, they had become convinced that they could be done away. And so we had a movement that sprung up on its own among the people, and Martin Luther King of course emerged then as the leader of this people's movement. Up to this time it had been a movement composed largely of blacks, of black leadership class, middle class blacks, professional blacks who were in the vanguard of the struggle. But now we had a real people's struggle. And the, as I said, we could not be at the head of all of that crowd, but Martin Luther King managed to, as I've said, become the leader of that movement and to get people to respond to his call for peaceful demonstrations against segregation. And you know he succeeded.


Camera roll 145, sound 1120.