A Forever Legacy of Historic Achievement – Constance Baker Motley

A Forever Legacy of Historic Achievement.

Have you heard of Judge Constance Baker Motley? Did you know that she was a New Haven native and a 40-year Chester resident? She was the  first Black woman federal judge and a groundbreaking civil rights attorney. Not only that, she was the first Black woman to argue before the US Supreme Court. Quite extraordinary indeed!

At the Community Foundation of Middlesex County, we love to celebrate Good People Doing Great Things and those in our region – past and present – who inspire us with their amazing accomplishments. In fact, our local history is filled with trailblazers dedicated to positive change, who challenged the status quo, and who worked to build a better today and a brighter tomorrow for all. Yet, many would go unrecognized, and remain unsung heroes if it were not for our local historical societies and preservation groups. Thanks to these organizations and their dedicated volunteers, important legacy stories continue to be told and make a lasting impact.

The significance of Judge Motley‘s life, legacy, and the importance of telling her story was certainly not lost on the Chester Historical Society and Chester Land Trust. In February, they coordinated a community gathering with the US Postal Service for a local unveiling of the first-class forever stamp commemorating Constance Baker Motley. The stamp, issued February 1, is the 47th in the Black heritage series and joins those of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and John Lewis. A short video recapping the life and legacy of Judge Motley, created by the United States Postal Service, kicked off a gathering of family, friends, and the greater community who gathered to recognize Judge Motley’s accomplishments and learn more about the lasting legacy of an inspiring woman, leader, and mentor.  (The video can also be seen on the USPS YouTube channel.)

On hand to celebrate Judge Motley and share reminiscences of her life as well as details of her extraordinary career were:

  • Constance Royster, the niece and namesake of Judge Motley, who is a lawyer and civil rights advocate working in New Haven;
  • Amy Gibbs, United States Postal Service Strategic Communications Specialist for Connecticut, who will speak briefly about the stamp’s origins and significance in the Black Heritage series;
  • Vanessa Roberts Avery, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, who shares her insights on the impact and legacy of Judge Motley’s career.

Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz and State Representative Christine Palm each spoke about their own journeys and how Judge Motley helped pave the road for opportunities for women every where. They presented proclamations from Governor Ned Lamont and the Connecticut Legislature marking the historic celebration of Judge Motley’s forever stamp.

Cynthia Lignar, First Selectwoman of Chester, thanked all those in attendance for joining the celebration of the release of the stamp and Judge Motley’s connection to her community. She noted that a framed poster of the forever stamp will be hung in the Chester Town Hall.

As a vivid and inspiring model for women and girls everywhere, Constance Baker Motley‘s life shines like a bright star.  CFMC’s Sari A. Rosenbaum Fund for Women & Girls applauds strong women who empower others and was pleased to be invited to partner and help spread the word about the celebration of her career and life in our community.  Judge Motley and her achievements truly exemplify the passion and mission of the Fund’s founders – to support programs and services empowering women and girls and to provide them with tools to be self-reliant and reach their potential.  Like the women and girls supported through the Fund, Constance Baker Motley was given the encouragement to follow her dreams and the tools to achieve whatever she set her mind to.

9-minute USPS video created for the Motley Black Heritage Stamp unveiling that we showed as part of the program on the 17th. You can view it on the USPS web site here.

The Chester Historical Society video (1 hr +) of the entire Feb.17 Stamp Celebration is now available on CHS’ YouTube website and you can view it below.

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