Duke Reads

Discover your next read, connect with fellow Blue Devil book enthusiasts, stay in the know about Duke faculty and alumni publications, or enjoy our playlist of author interviews. Duke Reads is your one-stop shop for alumni book lovers, events, and resources.

Lifelong Learning Summer Reading List

Need something new on your nightstand? We've got you covered. We asked some of Duke's most admired faculty members to contribute to our popular Lifelong Learning summer reading list.

Book Events

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Author Interviews

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Student Summer Reads

blue globeParticipate in thought-provoking reads designed to introduce incoming freshmen to Duke’s academic climate and encourage intellectual dialogue. This year’s selection is “The Measure” by Nikki Erlick.

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

"With the US Supreme Court confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson, “it makes sense to revisit the life and work of another Black woman who profoundly shaped the law: Constance Baker Motley” (CNN). The first major biography of one of our most influential judges—an activist lawyer who became the first Black woman appointed to the federal judiciary—that provides an eye-opening account of the twin struggles for gender equality and civil rights in the 20th Century.

“A must-read for anyone who dares to believe that equal justice under the law is possible and is in search of a model for how to make it a reality.” —Anita Hill

Born to an aspirational blue-collar family during the Great Depression, Constance Baker Motley was expected to find herself a good career as a hair dresser. Instead, she became the first black woman to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court, the first of ten she would eventually argue. The only black woman member in the legal team at the NAACP’s Inc. Fund at the time, she defended Martin Luther King in Birmingham, helped to argue in Brown vs. The Board of Education, and played a critical role in vanquishing Jim Crow laws throughout the South. She was the first black woman elected to the state Senate in New York, the first woman elected Manhattan Borough President, and the first black woman appointed to the federal judiciary.
    
Civil Rights Queen captures the story of a remarkable American life, a figure who remade law and inspired the imaginations of African Americans across the country. Burnished with an extraordinary wealth of research, award-winning, esteemed Civil Rights and legal historian and dean of the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Tomiko Brown-Nagin brings Motley to life in these pages. Brown-Nagin compels us to ponder some of our most timeless and urgent questions–how do the historically marginalized access the corridors of power? What is the price of the ticket? How does access to power shape individuals committed to social justice? In Civil Rights Queen, she dramatically fills out the picture of some of the most profound judicial and societal change made in twentieth-century America.

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Biography

"Tomiko Brown-Nagin is dean of Harvard Radcliffe Institute, one of the world’s leading centers for interdisciplinary research across the humanities, sciences, social sciences, arts, and professions. She is also the Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School and a professor of history at Harvard University. 

An award-winning legal historian and an expert in constitutional law and education law and policy, she is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Law Institute, and the American Philosophical Society; a fellow of the American Bar Foundation; a distinguished lecturer for the Organization of American Historians; and a member of the board of directors of ProPublica. Brown-Nagin has published articles and book chapters on a wide range of topics, including the Supreme Court’s equal protection jurisprudence, civil rights law and history, the Affordable Care Act, and education reform. She is a contributing editor to POLITICO Magazine as well as a frequent lecturer and media commentator.

Brown-Nagin’s latest book, Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality (Pantheon, 2022), explores the life and times of the pathbreaking lawyer, politician, and judge. Her book Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement (Oxford University Press, 2011) won a 2012 Bancroft Prize in American History, among other honors.
 
In 2019, Brown-Nagin was appointed chair of the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, which is anchored at the Radcliffe Institute.  The Committee issued a landmark report detailing the University’s direct, financial, and intellectual ties to slavery, which resulted in Harvard’s commitment of $100 million to redress harms to descendant communities in the United States and in the Caribbean."