Ketanji Brown Jackson: America’s First Black Supreme Court Justice

Kayla Person

On Thursday, April 7th, American history was made as Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed into the Supreme Court of the United States. This makes her the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court which was, as stated by Amy Howe on Scotusblog.com “fulfilling a campaign promise by then-candidate Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential campaign”.

While this is a momentous occasion, arriving at it was not an easy task. Throughout the hearings held by the United States House of Representatives, Jackson was challenged both by those presiding and the public. When word of Jackson’s nomination reached America, many people were outraged, demanding to see her LSAT scores and all-around questioning her qualifications for a seat on the Supreme Court. 

As aforementioned, the questioning during Jackson’s hearing was extensive. One socially popular topic that came up during the hearings was Jackson’s stance and past references to critical race theory. Jackson was also questioned about an affirmative action case in Harvard, which is the act of favoring minorities and disadvantaged people for things such as job opportunities or college applications. Jackson simply responded by saying she would recuse herself from the case, as she “does not provide direct input on the school’s admissions policies” (SPLC, 2022) while on the Board of Overseers. 

Despite all of the challenges, criticisms, and difficult questions, Jackson remained unphased. Throughout her hearings, Jackson maintained a cool head, answering all questions thrown at her with exceptional professionalism and calmly expressing what was and was not relevant to her career and the work she has done in the past.

Speaking of her past, Jackson has seemingly always been a talented and powerful woman that is constantly exceeding expectations. During her freshman year of college at Harvard University, Jackson bravely confronted a Confederate flag being displayed as a way to tell her and her fellow Black colleagues they did not belong at the university. From then on, Jackson was practically unstoppable. She graduated magna cum laude and spent a year working as a reporter and researcher at Time Magazine, where she was busy “writing stories on economic policy and prescription drug prices” (SPLC, 2022). 

In 1996, Jackson managed to graduate cum laude from Harvard Law and made her way up the ladder of the legal world until she was nominated by former President Barack Obama to be a district court judge for Washington D.C and confirmed to the position in 2013. From then on, Jackson had a hand in several impactful rulings, such as her ruling “in favor of a deaf man incarcerated in a D.C. jail who had not been provided a sign language interpreter during his incarceration” and, in 2019, ruling that former President Donald Trump “could not prevent White House counsel Don McGahn from responding to a legislative subpoena on the grounds of absolute immunity” (SPLC, 2022). 

In short, Ketanji Brown Jackson will no doubt make history after her swearing-in after Justice Breyer officially retires. There is hope across the nation for many marginalized groups that Jackson will make headway on heavily important social issues and begin to help those in this country that desperately need it.

Sources:

Amy Howe, In historic first, Ketanji Brown Jackson is confirmed to Supreme Court, SCOTUSblog (Apr. 7, 2022, 3:43 PM), https://www.scotusblog.com/2022/04/in-historic-first-ketanji-brown-jackson-is-confirmed-to-supreme-court/

Ketanji Brown Jackson: Legal career timeline. Southern Poverty Law Center. (2022, April 7). Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.splcenter.org/news/2022/04/07/ketanji-brown-jackson-legal-career-timeline/