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The Trials of Constance Baker Motley: Film Screening and Lecture with Constance L. Royster

February 7, 2024

Event Details

Date: February 7, 2024
Time: 6:30 pm
–8:00 pm



Sponsored by

In honor of Black History Month, the Greenwich Historical Society, First Presbyterian Church of Greenwich and YWCA Greenwich welcome Constance L. Royster for a brief lecture on the remarkable life and legacy of Connecticut native Constance Baker Motley, an unsung heroine of the Civil Rights Movement whose historic impact will be honored with the issue of a new Forever Stamp by the United States Postal Service one week prior to this event. Royster’s remarks will be followed by a screening of the film The Trials of Constance Baker Motley (2019, 27 mins) and a moderated audience Q&A.

At the height of the civil rights movement, Constance Baker Motley joined the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The only woman in the group, she left her husband and infant son in New York for weeks at a time to represent the LDF in Southern courts, arguing and winning some of the most important cases of the Civil Rights Movement.

The first female Black lawyer Southern judges and juries had seen, she stunned them by winning case after case–gaining the right for Black students to enter Ole Miss, The University of Georgia, and Clemson College, to name a few. After the assassination of her close friend Medgar Evers in Mississippi, she returned to New York–and went on to other callings to become the first Black woman NY State Senator, the first Black woman Manhattan Borough President, and, with the backing of Lyndon Johnson, the first Black woman named to a federal judgeship.

With archival footage and narration in Motley’s own voice, The Trials of Constance Baker Motley tells the story of a civil rights leader who met prejudice and danger with elegance and humor.

Please note this event will be held at the First Presbyterian Church of Greenwich.

Speaker Biography

Constance L. Royster

Constance Royster is a recognized leader and advisor in the nonprofit fields of education, arts and culture, and religion. She guides individuals, organizations, and institutions towards sustainable success.
Ms. Royster began her career as a lawyer, serving as a law clerk to The Honorable Damon J. Keith on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. She worked as an associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York. She was then a founding partner at Cooper, Liebowitz, Royster & Wright, a major minority and women-owned New York law firm.
Twenty-five years ago, she shifted her professional focus to civic and community engagement leveraging her legal expertise for the benefit of nonprofits and academia. She began by serving as the first Director of Major Gifts for WSHU National Public Radio in Connecticut. She became Associate Director of Development at the Yale School of the Environment, and then served for a decade as the Director of Development at the Yale Divinity School. In these various direct fundraising roles, she developed strategies for a range of campaigns, including capital, annual, special, and planned giving. She also developed external and public relations programs (including global conferences and campaigns in print and video), which received national and international acclaim. She organized civic engagements with notables including former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), and journalist E.J. Dionne, among others.
A transformative professional mentor, Ms. Royster is known for her outstanding people skills and ability to cultivate relationships across the spectrum. She has advised senior university leaders, secondary school heads, and nonprofit leaders over the years. She is respected for her diplomacy, kindness, and unique insights on seemingly intractable problems.
Ms. Royster lives her values, having contributed her time, talents, and wisdom as a leader in local, national, and international organizations. These include the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven - Fund for Women & Girls, the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, Dwight Hall at Yale – Center for Public Service and Social Justice, the Federal Bar Foundation, the Yale Alumni Fund, and others. She served on the inaugural Board of Governors of the Yale Alumni Association, and is a Fellow of Jonathan Edwards College at Yale. She is a Trustee of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund and holds numerous certifications in fundraising, board governance training, and gender, diversity, and inclusion management.
Ms. Royster holds a J.D. from Rutgers University Law School – Newark, and a B.A. cum laude from Yale University.
Ms. Royster was a member of the first group of women to attend Yale College when Yale went coed, and is the subject of a book on that topic entitled “Yale Needs Women” by Anne Gardiner Perkins.
Ms. Royster is the niece and namesake of Judge Constance Baker Motley.

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