Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality Book Review

No social movement that aims to create a better world is without its internal struggle. While the men are at the forefront, it is often the women who do the work. But few are given the spotlight and the respect they deserve.

The late Constance Baker Motley was one of these women. Her story is told in the new biography Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality. Written by Tomiko Brown-Nagin, it was published in January. Born to immigrants from the Caribbean in 1921, she came of age in an era in which both her gender and her skin color created barriers. Instead of just submitting to these barriers, she broke them. After graduating from law school, she was the only female on staff working for the legal team of the NAACP under the leadership of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Balancing work, marriage, and motherhood, Baker Motley smashed both Jim Crow to bits and created a large crack in the glass ceiling. Her career contained a lot of the firsts: the first African-American woman who was a state Senator in NY and the federal judiciary, and the first woman elected as Manhattan Borough President.

As a product of the American education system, I am utterly dismayed that she is not a household name. She was not just a groundbreaker, but a rule breaker. These days, it is perfectly normal for a woman to have the figurative balls of her job, her marriage, and her children in the air at the same time. But not back then. In fighting for the rights of both women and Black Americans, she paved the way for equality that has become the norm and unfortunately, still has to be fought for.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality is available wherever books are sold.


The Only Life That Mattered Book Review

YOLO, or you only live once has become a very popular statement in recent years. But while the phrasing is new, the sentiment is not.

James Nelson’s 2004 book, The Only Life That Mattered: The Short and Merry Lives of Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Calico Jack Rackham is about three pirates actually lived the pirate life in the Caribbean in the 18th century.    However with a time distance of several centuries and the real facts about them few and far between, these three individuals have taken on a mythic stature of their own.

Mr. Nelson starts the novel at the very end of their journey.  The British have captured Calico Jack’s ship. The crew, including Anne and Mary are in prison, facing charges of piracy.  The story then breaks off into three main characters individual  journeys before bringing them together.

What I enjoy about this book is that it feels authentic. The reader can feel the cool Caribbean air around them,  the warm sand on their toes and visualize the rough and dangerous life of a pirate during this period. Unlike other historical novels, this book is not bogged down by facts. Combining the myths of his three characters, the historical facts and a little imagination, The Only Like That Mattered takes the reader into a time and place that does not exist anymore.

I highly recommend this book.

And if your interested further in this subject, I recommend a History Channel miniseries called True Caribbean Pirates.

%d bloggers like this: