KETANJI BROWN JACKSON is celebrated at the White House the day after her historic confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. (AP Photo)
Ketanji Brown Jackson makes history
by Marcia Liggett
For New Pittsburgh Courier
Pittsburgh, the “City of Champions,” joined the rest of the nation in celebrating a monumental moment in American history as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first Black woman to earn a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Thursday, April 7, Jackson, who vowed to apply the law “without fear or favor,” was confirmed by the Senate in a 53-47 vote with all 50 members of the Democratic caucus and three Republicans (Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah). She’ll become the Court’s 116th justice.
Jackson is the only federal public defender to sit for the lifetime appointment. She joins legal legends, Justices Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, as the only Black justices to have achieved this colossal feat.
Having nominated Jackson, President Joe Biden expressed: “Judge Jackson’s confirmation was a historic moment for our nation. We’ve taken another step toward making our highest court reflect the diversity of America. She will be an incredible Justice, and I was honored to share this moment with her.”
Pittsburghers are still abuzz over the recent election of its first Black mayor, Ed Gainey, who celebrated Jackson’s confirmation: “The confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is not only historic, but another significant step forward in shattering the proverbial glass ceiling. Her confirmation represents a milestone opportunity for our democracy to acknowledge the leadership Black women have always exhibited.”
Pennsylvania state Rep. Summer Lee tweeted: “It’s official: Ketanji Brown Jackson is going to be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. This is remarkable! Yes, she was forced to overcome barriers that no others had to, but today we’re a step closer towards affirming that Black women, girls, & femmes belong everywhere.”
LONGTIME PITTSBURGH RESIDENT BRENDA KING called Ketanji Brown Jackson a “woman of strength, integrity, conviction and courage; one who gratefully acknowledges the shoulders upon which she stands.”
Indeed, Black women in Pittsburgh are sharing the excitement, recognizing the significance of this historic moment. Brenda King, 79, a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh, expressed her delight to the New Pittsburgh Courier: “Justice Jackson deserves this appointment. From a very early childhood, she has prepared herself for this moment. Her credentials and career speak for themselves. She’s a woman of strength, integrity, conviction and courage; one who gratefully acknowledges the shoulders upon which she stands. A woman of superior character, she has meticulously upheld the duties of any office she has sworn to sustain. As a Supreme Court justice, she affirms that she will continue to execute fair and honest judgement based on her understanding of the U.S. Constitution. I’m so pleased that President Biden had the wisdom, and yes, even the courage to place her in nomination for the highest office in the land in the Supreme Court.”
LATOSHA HARRIS, of Sheraden, said that “the progress that we have made not only through Justice Brown Jackson as a person, but just as a whole, makes me feel proud and motivated.”
LaTosha Harris, 40, of Sheraden, discussed the tremendous personal impact Jackson’s nomination has for her own family: “As a Black woman who was just afforded the right to vote less than 100 years ago, the progress that we have made not only through Justice Brown Jackson as a person, but just as a whole, makes me feel proud and motivated. The amount of joy I had listening to the confirmation hearings, listening to her recommendations, especially those that came from a White male, shows the progress we have made. Yet on the counter side, it shows the progress that we have left to make. As a mother of a daughter studying criminology at an HBCU, it gives me hope that her efforts will not be in vain, that someone will see her and accept her as an equal. We’ve made progress but we still have a way to go. Hopefully Justice Brown Jackson’s nomination and confirmation will allow progress to be made in other areas where it hasn’t even reached the surface yet.”
Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, was instrumental in bringing this accomplishment to fruition. “Today is a good day for America,” he said on April 7. “Judge Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court is an inspiration for future generations, particularly young Black women and girls. Make no mistake, we have a long way to go to make our institutions reflect the diversity of our nation. For too long, we’ve come up short. But today, we took an historic step forward. I was honored to vote to confirm Judge Jackson to our highest court and I have no doubt she will help realize our highest ideal of equal justice under the law.”
Jackson’s professional trek also inspires future politicians, demonstrating the importance of Black attorneys practicing law to create equality within the legal system. Jerry Dickinson, candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 12th district, emphasized that “as an African American civil rights lawyer, a constitutional law professor, and a father to two young Black girls, I am overwhelmed with pride, and I am hopeful that this achievement will inspire future generations of Black and brown children to aspire for careers at the highest levels of government. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s ascension to the highest court in the United States represents a major step towards the goal of a more perfect union. Throughout her life, she has traversed the forces of hatred and bigotry to accomplish the improbable, never failing to exercise the integrity and impartiality her work requires.”
Celebrities around the country turned to Twitter to celebrate and congratulate Jackson. R&B vocalist John Legend’s congratulatory tweet described Jackson’s accomplishment as “historic” and a “well-deserved ascension to our nation’s highest court.” Jennifer Hudson said that “history was made today! Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court! Let’s celebrate!!!” Actor Viola Davis concurred, adding, “Congratulations Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson!!! You have made history!”
During a heartfelt acceptance speech at the White House on Friday, April 9, the 51-year-old Jackson, accompanied by President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, addressed the public: “I have dedicated my career to public service because I love this country and our constitution, and the rights that make us free.”
Jackson, who will take her seat on the Court when Justice Stephen Breyer retires in September, expressed her sincere gratitude to those who have continued to support her on this journey, especially the youth. “The notes that I’ve received from children are particularly cute and especially meaningful because more than anything, they speak directly to the hope and promise of America. It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States – but we’ve made it! We’ve made it, all of us! And our children are telling me that they see now more than ever that here in America, anything is possible.”