Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

By Lucas Johnson

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — When President Joe Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for the U.S. Supreme Court, for many it was more than just keeping a campaign promise. The historic move, in the eyes of civil rights groups and women’s organizations, is viewed as “long overdue.” 

Biden nominated Jackson on Feb. 25. If confirmed, she would not only be the first African-American woman, but also the third Black justice and sixth woman to serve on the nation’s highest court. 

Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover, who also serves as vice chair of the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), explains the nomination has been a longtime coming considering the contributions of Black women to the success of the country and their influence on the judicial system in general. 

“It was 55 years ago in 1967 that Justice Thurgood Marshall — the first African American — was appointed to the nation’s high court and 40 years ago in 1981 when Justice Sandra Day O’Connor — the first woman ― was appointed to the Supreme Court.  Rather than a long time coming, for many, this appointment is a long time overdue,” says Dr. Glover.

“There are countless Black women in the legal field who have distinguished themselves as brilliant jurists, fierce advocates, and venerable legal scholars who have made tremendous sacrifices to shape the laws of the land and help secure justice for all.”

Junior Brianna Lang is a political science major at Tennessee State University. The Atlanta native says she’s looking forward to seeing someone on the Supreme Court who looks like her.

“Since I was a kid, I have been interested in becoming a lawyer, or a judge,” says Lang. “So, seeing someone who looks like me, doing something that I want to do, just lets me know to keep going and stay motivated. And that anything is possible.”

Tiara Thomas, a senior majoring in political science from Olive Branch, Mississippi, says she’s glad to see the Biden administration continue the cycle of “breaking glass ceilings,” referring to Vice President Kamala Harris as the first Black woman to hold that position in the White House.

“The appointment of the first African American woman as a Supreme Court justice will be a great step toward placing public trust back into our judicial system,” says Thomas, who serves as the student trustee on TSU’s Board of Trustees. “Little girls everywhere will see her and dream, one day, to be her.“

Since 1790, there have been 115 Supreme Court justices. The confirmation of Jackson would also for the first time in history seat four women and two Black justices on the High Court. Judge Clarence Thomas is the current seated African American judge.

Dr. Samantha Morgan-Curtis, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts at TSU and a Women’s Studies faculty member, says she’s also looking forward to the inspiration Jackson will provide young people aspiring to go into the legal or judicial field.

“I have had the privilege of working with many TSU students who have gone on to become successful attorneys,” says Morgan-Curtis. “I am eagerly awaiting the first one to become a judge. If confirmed, Judge Jackson opens up for all of those women in college to dream of even greater possibilities.”

TSU History Professor Learotha Williams says Jackson’s nomination helps to rectify a history of Black women being overlooked for positions for which they are qualified.

“These ladies have to be fearless because they’re working within a framework that’s still in many regards racist and sexist,” says Dr. Williams. “For their whole existence, Black women have been judged. Laws have been made that impacted them. But they’ve never been at the top where they could interpret the laws. Judge Jackson may soon change that.”  

Jackson is expected to be confirmed before the Senate recesses in April, and she could be sworn in by early July. She would replace the retiring liberal Justice Stephen Breyer. The Supreme Court currently has a 6-3 conservative majority. 

For information about Women’s Studies in TSU’s College of Liberal Arts, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/cla/programs/womensstudies.aspx.