Ketanji Brown Jackson Makes History as First Black Woman Appointed to the Supreme Court

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Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. Photo by H2rty, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

On April 7, Federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson made history by becoming the first Black woman to be appointed to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Senate confirmed her by a 53-47 vote, which largely followed party lines. Once the court begins its next term in October, Jackson will be only the sixth woman and third African American to serve on the bench. She will also be the fourth person of color and second woman of color ever appointed to the high court, joining Thurgood Marshall, Clarence Thomas, and Sonia Sotomayor.

Prior to her nomination, Jackson served as federal judge in the U.S. court of appeals and district court for the District of Columbia, vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and an assistant federal public defender. She also served as a law clerk for Justice Stephen Breyer, whom she is nominated to replace, from 1999 to 2000.

On March 21, the first day of the Senate’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Jackson delivered a powerful opening statement. She expressed gratitude for her parents, who experienced segregation before the 1970 Civil Rights Act but persevered and instilled in her a love of public service. Jackson also recognized Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman to be appointed as a federal judge, and vowed to uphold the highest values of the court.

“[L]ike Judge Motley,” she said, “I have dedicated my career to ensuring that the words engraved on the front of the Supreme Court building — ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ — are a reality and not just an ideal.”