History Made: Ketanji Brown Jackson Will Be the First Black Woman on the US Supreme Court

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in March. The US Senate confirmed her for the high court Thursday. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

By Billy Ball

April 7, 2022

Jackson’s confirmation fulfills a significant campaign promise from President Joe Biden to make the high court more diverse.

In 1787, the founders of the United States of America wrote that, with their newly created Constitution, it was their intention to “establish justice.”

On Thursday, the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the US Supreme Court makes the purveyors of that justice look a little more like America itself.

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Jackson, nominated by President Joe Biden this year, will be the first Black woman to serve on the court in its 231 years. She’ll also be the first justice to ever work as a public defender. She’ll join the court following the close of this court’s term in June when the justice she is replacing, Stephen Breyer, steps down. 

Multiple political figures from North Carolina congratulated Jackson on her confirmation Thursday. 

“Change comes slow to the Supreme Court,” US Rep. Alma Adams, a longtime Democrat from Greensboro, said Thursday. 

“Not only will she be the first Black woman in our nation’s history to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States; she will also be a role model to women and girls everywhere,” added Adams. “Her presence on the bench will be another reminder that women from every background belong everywhere decisions are being made.”

“Judge Jackson understands the role of a judge and the role of the Judiciary,” said US Rep. Kathy Manning, a Democrat from Greensboro. “She is someone who will bring to the bench top-notch qualifications, a breadth of experience in multiple facets of the law, and unimpeachable character.”

“Today, America celebrates a moment in history that signifies the importance of judicial excellence & racial equity by confirming Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court of the US,” US Rep. G.K. Butterfield of Wilson wrote on Twitter. “Congrats Judge Jackson! There are no limits to what a person can achieve in our country.”

Jackson’s confirmation fulfills one of Biden’s key campaign promises to appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court if given the chance. Of its 115 justices ever, 108 have been white men. 

Jackson will take her seat after the court’s term ends sometime in June or July when retiring Justice Stephen Breyer’s departure becomes official. 

Despite Jackson’s credentials and reputation for consensus, all but three Republicans — US Sens.Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, and Mitt Romney — voted against her confirmation. That includes North Carolina senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis.  

Tillis said March 30 that he would vote against Jackson, citing his concerns that she would “legislate from the bench,” although most Republicans appeared to vote against Jackson for purely partisan reasons.

A former clerk for Breyer, Jackson is a Harvard Law graduate who grew up in Miami. Her background defending poor clients in criminal cases makes her a unique addition to the high court, which has been dominated by prosecutors and corporate attorneys. 

“Today, justice and equal protection under the law lives among us and is made flesh,” US Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat from Georgia, said Thursday to mark the impending vote. “The administration of our Constitution looks a little more like what it says.”


  • Billy Ball

    Billy Ball is Cardinal & Pine's senior community editor. He’s covered local, state and national politics, government, education, criminal justice, the environment and immigration in North Carolina for almost two decades, winning state, regional and national awards for his reporting and commentary.

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