Alumna Writes History of Black Experience at UConn Law

Constance Belton Green
Alumna Writes History of Black Experience at UConn Law
September 13, 2019
Hartford, CT

Constance Belton Green ’72, the first African American woman to graduate from UConn School of Law, has written a history of the law school’s black students and faculty.

The 65-page book, “Still We Rise: African Americans at the University of Connecticut School of Law,” traces a history from the founding of the law school in 1921 to the present day, concentrating on personal narratives from the late 1960s and early 1970s. The law school published the book this summer.

“’Still We Rise’ is our story of challenge and achievement,” Green said. “As one of the early graduates, I knew it important to tell of our history; and to identify some of the amazing careers of alumni.”

Still We Rise coverGreen interviewed African American graduates and faculty members to produce a chronicle of their accomplishments and of the challenges and resistance they faced. Their narratives, combined with historical material from the law library archives, reveal the controversies around minority student recruitment, the development of the Black Law Students Association, and the struggles of individual students in the face of racial hostility.

African American students, often working through BLSA, organized trips to recruit students from historically black colleges, established a legal clinic in Hartford, sponsored study groups, held panel discussions and other events for the entire law school community, and advocated on behalf of all minority students. BLSA is now one of the most established student organizations on campus and its Night of Inspiration is a premiere annual event at the law school.

African American faculty members—starting with the first, civil rights lawyer John Brittain—described their own challenges. They joined the effort to recruit and retain minority professors while reaching out to support BLSA and minority students.

The book concludes with a chapter by Karen DeMeola, assistant dean for finance, administration and enrollment at UConn Law. She wrote about the recent history of students of color at the law school and about the work that remains to be done. “There are no easy answers for how to eliminate injustices or how to increase racial diversity at the law school,” she wrote, “but this is no question of giving up.”

An appendix contains short biographies of 60 prominent African American graduates, many of whom became judges, law firm partners, prosecutors, professors, legislators and business and community leaders.

“This book recounts a crucial chapter in our school’s history, while highlighting the accomplishments of a brave and tremendously accomplished group of our graduates,” Dean Timothy Fisher said. “We are grateful to Connie Green for this great work, and for its contribution to building our identity as a community.”

The book is available as an online PDF at law.uconn.edu/stillwerise. A limited number of printed copies will be distributed to alumni as long as the supply lasts. Send your name and postal address to stillwerise@uconn.edu before the end of September.

As the story of African American students and alumni continues to unfold, UConn Law will continue to collect their stories. Please send your recollections and observations to stillwerise@uconn.edu.