Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court on April 7, making history as the first Black woman to serve on the court.
Students should celebrate the recent confirmation of Judge Jackson to the Supreme Court by reading up on the legacy she has created and Black history in the United States.
In celebrating these victories, as well as being critical of the events that delayed them, students can gain a better understanding of Black history during these eventful times.
Despite the celebration that this monumental achievement calls for, students should also be aware of the equally monumental hardships that were laid on this path.
Jackson shares the birthday of Sept. 14 with another notable Black judge, Judge Constance Baker Motley. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, Motley is referred to as the “Civil Rights Queen,” and was “the first Black woman to serve as a federal judge, as well as the first to argue a case before the Supreme Court.”
Motley was a lead figure in the Civil Rights Movement that took root in Birmingham, Alabama. She served on Martin Luther King Jr.’s defense counsel when he was imprisoned after his Good Friday march and when he wrote the renowned Letter from Birmingham Jail.
Motley’s diligent and unbending determination in the courts gained her an infamous reputation, described by Clarence Jones, an adviser of King’s, as a “Columbia University-trained woman lawyer who famously ‘took no prisoners.’”
According to Smithsonian Magazine’s feature article about her life achievements, Motley’s legal achievements would later be noted as important “groundwork for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
Jackson and Motley are just two of many figures in Black history that students should celebrate the accomplishments, paving the way for a future of justice and equality in the face of constant adversity.
The importance of their achievements does not stop at the achievement itself but is also driven by their fighting for those who succeed them to have a less-troubled road to their goals.
In a recent episode of NPR’s Code Switch, legal historian Tomiko Brown-Nagin noted that Motley’s legacy “was the first in so many respects, but she made sure that she was not the only one.” Jackson was one of many that followed Motley’s legacy.
“Today, I proudly stand on Judge Motley’s shoulders, sharing not only her birthday but also her steadfast and courageous commitment to equal justice under law,” Jackson said in her confirmation speech. Now, Jackson has become a shoulder of strength for others.
The struggles on this road to equal representation in the courts were noted by President Biden in his recent tweet, saying that “For too long our government and our courts haven’t looked like America.” However, it amplifies the weight of this achievement by Jackson and her part in “a Court that reflects the full talents and the greatness of our nation.”