For the first time in American history, a Black woman has been nominated to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
By selecting Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Feb. 25, President Joe Biden completed his pledge to select a Black woman for the court for the first time in history.
A Black woman has never served on the U.S. Supreme Court since it was created in 1789—over 232 years ago. Since then, only two other Black persons have served on the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall, who was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967, and Clarence Thomas, who was appointed by President George H. W. Bush in 1991 amid significant controversy.
In over two centuries, 114 justices have served on the Supreme Court and 108 of them have been White men.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. That federal court is seen as a feeder for nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Judge Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Miami, Florida. She attended Harvard University for college and law school and was the editor of the Harvard Law Review. She began her legal career as a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer.
In what may have been a clue that Judge Jackson would be nominated, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia broke with tradition on Feb. 24 and issued an opinion on a Thursday. That scheduling change was noted by the media since the court typically only issues opinions on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Only one other woman of color has served on the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor of New York, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009. Three other women have served on the Supreme Court: Sandra Day O’Connor, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981; Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993; Associate Justice Elena Kagan, who was appointed by President Obama in 2010; and Associate Justice Amy Barrett who was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2020.
In 1958, just 3% of law school students were women. In 2020, women made up 54% of law students in the United States.