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Civil Rights in History

CRP Bulletin/Noticiero recognizes significant people and landmark events in civil rights history.

DURING THE 1960s...

Constance Baker Motley

New York’s first African-American female Senator, CONSTANCE BAKER MOTLEY, considered one of the most influential leaders of the civil rights movement, became the first African-American woman to argue a case before the US Supreme Court. Baker Motley was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1921. She received her bachelor's degree from New York University in 1943, and graduated from the prestigious Columbia Law School in 1946. She began her legal career as Thurgood Marshall's law clerk at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, working at the forefront of the civil rights movement. In 1961, she argued Hamilton v. State of Alabama before the US Supreme Court. Although she lost her case, Baker Motley went on to argue before the Court nine more times, winning the next nine cases. She had other firsts in her long and distinguished career: in 1965 she became the first woman (of any race) elected President of the Manhattan Borough and in 1966 Lyndon Johnson appointed her as a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.. She remained on the court until her death in 2005. 

Sources:  2007 Honorees. (n.d.). National Women's History Project. Retrieved August 27, 2014, from 

Source:  Constance Baker Motley Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2014, from

DURING THE 1950s...

Hernandez v. Texas

Hernandez v. Texas was a landmark 1954 case which determined that all races (not just blacks and whites) were equally protected under the 14th amendment. Pete Hernandez was indicted for the murder of Joe Espinoza by an all-white grand jury. Hernandez, along with his attorneys, Carlos C. Cadena and Gus C. Garcia, tried to void the indictment by asserting that persons of Mexican descent were discriminated as a “special class” because no one of Mexican descent had been part of a jury in Jackson County in 25 years. Hernandez was then sentenced to life in prison and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the decision by stating, “Mexicans are...members of and within the classification of the white race as distinguished from members of the Negro Race,” thereby rejecting the appeal. When the appeal reached the Supreme Court under Justice Earl Warren, it unanimously ruled that, “the Fourteenth Amendment protects those beyond the two classes of white or Negro, and extends to other racial groups in communities.” 

Source: "Hernandez v Texas," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, Retrieved August 28, 2014, from


DURING THE 1870s...

Charlotte E. Ray

CHARLOTTE E. RAY became the first African American female to graduate with a law degree and the 3rd female to obtain a law degree in the United States. Ray was born in 1850. Her father was Reverend Charles Bennett Ray, a prominent New York abolitionist and minister who owned the Colored American, one of the leading African American newspapers of the antebellum era.  Charlotte attended primary school at Education of Colored Youth, the only school in the Washington, D.C. area to educate African American females. Once she finished her schooling, Ray went on to teach at Howard University, but she wanted to do more than teach so she enrolled in the Howard University Law School as “C.E. Ray” to disguise her gender, and she successfully graduated in 1872. She later went on to become an advocate of the women’s suffrage movement as well as a delegate to the 1876 conference of the National Woman’s Suffrage Association. In 1895 Ray joined the newly formed National Association of Colored Women. 

Source: Ray, Charlotte E. The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed. Retrieved August 27, 2014, from






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