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Gary Ford

The College of Arts and Humanities would like to congratulate The Department of American Studies’ Ph.D. student, Gary Ford, on his nomination for best producer at the St. Tropez International Film Festival and Television Festival of World Cinema for his dissertation inspired documentary, Justice is a Black Woman: The Life and Work of Constance Baker Motley.”


Ford, who is currently a Faculty Fellow at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Ct., will receive his doctorate degree from the University of Maryland during convocation this May. 

The Dissertation
Ford’s dissertation examines the career of Constance Baker Motley, the only woman trial lawyer for the legal arm of the NAACP, the Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), during the 1950s-60s. He situates Judge Motley in the context of the Civil Rights movement and examines her life and career in the context of women’s agency and leadership in the movement, gender discrimination and their near invisibility in historical narratives of the movement, and the diverse types and levels of leadership they adopted in response to the constraints.

Brought to the LDF by Thurgood Marshall, Motley became the lead lawyer in desegregation and trespass prosecution cases throughout the South after 1954 and won nine of ten cases before the U.S. Supreme Court between 1961-65. After a term in the New York Senate, Motley accepted an appointment as a justice of the federal southern district court of New York, and she became chief justice there in 1982. 

The Documentary
Ford’s research on Judge Motley served as the basis for a documentary film entitled “Justice is a Black Woman: The Life and Work of Constance Baker Motley.” The research included interviews with Dr. Maya Angelou, President Bill Clinton, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Vernon Jordan, Jr., Professor Charles Ogletree, Professor Drew Days, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Joel Motley, III, Herbert Wright, members of the Little Rock Nine, Dr. Bernard Lafayette and other Freedom Riders, The Honorable Andrew Young, Reverend Wyatt T. Walker, Charlayne Hunter Gault, and other civil rights activists represented by Motley. Dr. Angelou read her poem, “Still I Rise,” for the opening of the film; Juan Williams narrated it. Completed at Quinnipiac University, the feature documentary debuted on PBS in 2012, was named the Best Higher Education Film of the year, and won a Telly Award in February 2013. 

The St. Tropez International Film and Television Festival of World Cinema
The festival is a global industry event that will reach out to the many filmmakers who always place film at the center of our acts as a truly international film industry event, being held a few days before the Cannes International film festival to bring together film from around the world. The festival will be held May 16-18, 2013, in Nice, France.