Let the Work I've Done Speak for Me;
Ketanji Brown Jackson, a Portrait of Grit and Grace

By Paris Himes

"You can't always expect to be the smartest person in the room, but you can promise to be the hardest working." Ketanji Brown Jackson

During the 2020 presidential election campaign, Joe Biden promised to align the court to be more representative of the nation by nominating a black woman to the Supreme Court.  A glass ceiling has finally broken with the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson as the 116th Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  In the 232-year supreme court’s history, Jackson is the first black woman nominated by an American president to the Supreme Court.

Born in 1970 in Washington, DC, to parents who valued their African ancestry, they named their daughter “Ketanji,” an  African word that means “lovely one.” The family moved to Miami when Jackson was three, and that is where she spent her formative years.  Both parents were school teachers, and her father later left the profession to pursue law.  Her father’s passion for law led Jackson to participate in speech and debate in high school.  This experience strengthened her self-confidence and perfected her skill with public speaking – qualities that have contributed to her successful legal career path.  In 1992 Jackson was accepted into Harvard University, graduated with a law degree in 1996, and that same year married surgeon Patrick Jackson, and together they have two daughters.  Jackson has worked as a law clerk for the US District Court, the US Supreme Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the US Supreme Court, and Morrison & Foerster.

President Barack Obama, in 2009, nominated Jackson to serve as a Sentencing Commissioner, and after being confirmed by the Senate, she performed in this role until 2014.  Jackson has served as a board member of the DC Circuit Historical Society, Boards of Overseers of Harvard University, and the Council of the American Law Institute.

Poised and measured, Jackson professionally answered questions throughout two lengthy and, at times, contentious confirmation hearings.  A minority of conservative mudslinging Republican senators determined to ignore Jackson’s impressive body of work hurled cruel accusations and misinformation about her record.  By the end of her first confirmation hearing, Senator Cory Booker saw an opportunity to speak words that, if communicated by Jackson, would have stereotyped her as an angry Black woman. Booker spoke passionately and at length about Jackson’s accomplishments and the meaning of Jackson’s nomination to the nation.  After referencing the excitement he was receiving from his constituents, Booker said this: 

“And I want to tell you, when I look at you, this is why I get emotional. I’m sorry, you’re a person that is so much more than your race and gener. You’re a Christian, you’re a mom, you’re an intellect, you love books.  But for me, I’m sorry, it’ hard for me not to look at you and not see my mom, not see my cousins, one of them who had to come here and sit behind you.  She had to have your back.  I see my ancestors and yours. Nobody’s going to steal the joy of that woman in the street, or the calls that I’m getting, or the texts. Nobody’s going to steal that joy.  You have earned this spot.  You are worthy.  You are a great American.”

Jackson’s confirmation passed on a vote of 53 to 47.  Three Republican Senators, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney, crossed over to vote with all 50 Democrat Senators. The confirmation of Jackson will not change the ideological balance of the court.  Still, more importunately, the court will be privy to the points of view of an African American woman.  Her legal voice will speak for many unheard and marginalized citizens and marks a significant historic milestone for the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary.  Jackson will be sworn in after her predecessor, Justice Stephen Breyer, retires this summer 2022.

Visit Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Offical Webpage:

 Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the US Supreme Court | The White House

Visit Cory Booker’s full address:

WATCH: Jackson tears up, as Sen. Booker says she’s earned her historic Supreme Court nomination – Bing video