Claudia Morcum, Civil Rights Righter

Dianne Feeley & David Finkel

RETIRED JUDGE CLAUDIA Morcom died August 21 at her Detroit home, following a battle with recurring brain cancer. She was revered in Detroit as a pioneer not only in the African-American freedom struggle, but also for women in the legal profession.

We were privileged to interview Judge Morcom earlier this year for our 50th anniversary commemoration of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer. A young attorney at the time, Claudia Morcom volunteered for the job of staffing the office for the National Lawyers Guild in Jackson,following the murder of civil right workers Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney (

She continued to be active in a wide variety of human rights and political struggles throughout her life. Against the Current previously interviewed her about her experience at the 2001 international anti-racist conference in Durban, South Africa, an important even that was almost entirely forgotten in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks (

Judge Morcom was also an avid cultural activist, serving for several years on the board of the Detroit Jazz Festival and hosting a weekly jazz program in the ’90s on a local public radio station. She was an important figure in the vital generation of Black, labor and left fighters who transformed Detroit and changed the country for the better.

November/December 2014, ATC 173