Both sides now
Tomiko Brown-Nagin, a 1992 Furman University history alumna, is featured on the cover of Harvard Magazine. In the accompanying story, contributing editor and journalist Lincoln Caplan offers a detailed account of Brown-Nagin’s early years growing up in Greenwood, South Carolina, just after desegregation, her college days at Furman, including her Truman Scholarship award, and her post-graduate studies at Yale, and later, Duke University.
The bulk of the story centers on two epic-length books by Brown-Nagin, “Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement” (2011, Oxford), which won the Bancroft Prize in U.S. History, and her latest due this month from Pantheon, “Civil Rights Queen.” The latter is a tome about little-known civil rights attorney and activist, the Honorable Constance Baker Motley, the first black woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court, the first of 10 she would eventually argue.
Caplan pulls several excerpts from Brown-Nagin’s book, among them, this: “The questions underpinning ‘Civil Rights Queen’ are all about outsiders and power. How do outsiders – women, in particular – gain power, with what benefits, and at what costs? How does access to power shape and change individuals who initially sought it because of a commitment to social justice?”
Brown-Nagin is dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, and professor of history at Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In 2019, Brown-Nagin was appointed chair of the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, which is based at the Radcliffe Institute.
Historian and legal scholar Brown-Nagin is a summa cum laude graduate of Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. She earned a juris doctorate at Yale Law School in 1997 and a Ph.D. in history at Duke University in 2002.