Ketanji Brown Jackson: The First Black Justice on the Supreme Court

Ketanji Brown Jackson makes history as the first African-American woman and first federal public defender to sit on the supreme court. Jackson will replace Associate Justice Stephen Breyer after he retires at the end of the term. The vote was 53 to 47.

About Ketanji Brown Jackson

Judge Jackson was raised in Miami, Florida, after being born in Washington, DC. Both of her parents became leaders and administrators in the Miami-Dade Public School System after beginning their careers as teachers in public schools. 

In 1996, Judge Jackson graduated with a JD, cum laude, from Harvard Law School. She also worked as the Harvard Law Review’s supervising editor. She graduated from Harvard-Radcliffe College with an AB, magna cum laude, in government in 1992.

Ketanji Brown Jackson
Justice Stephen G. Breyer (Retired) administers the Judicial Oath to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in the West Conference Room, Supreme Court Building. Dr. Patrick Jackson holds the Bible. Credit: Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Supreme court

The supreme court is a country’s top court. This court can make legal judgements and overturn other courts’ decisions. As a result, it is frequently the most powerful court. The United States Supreme Court has the authority to make final judgements on laws impacting the entire country. The United States Supreme Court has nine members, known as “justices.” The president appoints these justices, and the US Senate must approve their selection. The justices retain their positions for the rest of their lives or until they choose to resign.

Here are 12 Interesting facts about Ketanji Brown Jackson:

  1. In 1970, Ketanji Brown Jackson was born in Washington, DC, but grew up in South Miami-Dade.

2. In West Africa, her name Ketanji Onyika means “Lovely One.” Before her birth, her aunt served in the Peace Corps in West Africa and sent Jackson’s mom a list of names to choose from.

3. She became interested in law because of her father. 

When she was in Kindergarten, she would sit at the table where there were stacks of law books. While she colored, her father studied law. 

4. Her parents attended segregated primary schools and Historical Black Colleges (HBCUs).

5. From 1992-1993, Jackson worked as a staff researcher and reporter for Time magazine, then she left to start at Harvard Law School.

6. Jackson’s high school guidance counsellor advised her not to aim her “sights too high” when she expressed interest in attending Harvard University. However, she earned a magna cum laude from Harvard University and a cum laude from Harvard Law School, where she served as an editor for the Harvard Law Review.

7. During a theatre class she took at Harvard, she was paired with actor Matt Damon.

8.  During a theatre course she took at Harvard, she was partnered with actor Matt Damon.

9. She married Patrick Jackson, a surgeon at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, in 1996, whom she met while studying at Harvard. They now have two children. 

10. President Barrack Obama nominated her in 2012 for a DC District Court judgeship. 

11. She is related by marriage to former Republican vice presidential candidate and House Speaker Paul Ryan. Jackson’s husband’s brother is married to Ryan’s wife’s sister.

12. Several women inspire her, including Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Shirley Chisholm, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

The confirmation of the first Black woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court has inspired young women, particularly women of color.

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