By A. Melcon
Recently, a milestone has been reached as Ketanji Brown Jackson has been nominated by Joe Biden for the Supreme Court, becoming the first black female to achieve this. She is to be the 116th Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court as soon as the present Justice retires this summer- an incredible event as it is a known fact that Black women are usually underrepresented in the law system. This news represents far more than an advancement in Jacksons magnificent career; It also represents an advancement in racial movements and humanity as a whole.
Ketanji Brown Jackson was born in Washington DC and raised in Miami, Florida. She was a high achiever all throughout her childhood and was even elected major of Palmetto Junior High and student body president of Miami Palmetto Senior High School. However, despite her broad academic achievements, she was warned and belittled by her school guidance counselor when apply to the schools she was aiming for- told she had almost no chance of getting in. Clearly, this judgement was based on simply the color of her skin. Despite this adversity, she graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, then attended Harvard Law School, where she graduated cum laude and even became an editor of the Harvard Law Review.
After graduating, she served as a district judge from 2013 to 2021. In 2014, she also served as vice chair and commissioner on the Unites States sentencing commission. She is currently a member of the Judicial Conference Committee on Defender Services, as well as the Board of Overseers of Harvard University and the Council of the American Law Institute, also serving on the board of Georgetown Day School and the United States Supreme Court Fellows Commission. She was nominated to replace Justice Stephan Breyner on the 28th of February of 2022.
However, it is unrealistic to state that this milestone has been reached overnight. In reality, there have been millions of women over the past century who have been fighting for more achievements such as these to be reached.
One of the women who have paved the way for this movement is Charlotte Ray who, in 1872, became the first known black lawyer. She got a degree, passed the district of Columbia’s Bar exam, and later on opened her own law firm; these were all incredible achievements at the time, especially for a woman of color. However, just when it felt that she had escaped the barriers of racial segregation, she began facing a lot of issues as prejudice, both racial and gender wise, and was forced to close her company. She ended up getting involved in the Suffragette movement.
Another influential woman also leading to the dismantling of racial segregation in law was Lutie Lyte, who became the first female law professor in 1898. However, she faced similar issues as Charlotte Ray, and wasnt able to find enough clients to remain an attorney. So, she also was forced to give up on her dream and instead got involved in the Suffragette movement, working to help other women in the future do what she and so many were unfortunately not able to.
A third example of another influential black female in law is Elreta Melton Alexander. During WW2, when there were many less men in the country, more women had more working opportunities, these including law professions. Elreta Melton Alexander was the first black woman to graduate Columbia law in 1945, and later became a well-known lawyer. Throughout her career, she encountered many trials which she used to draw attention to race-based jury selection processes. An example of this is when she lost a case defending 4 black men of raping a white woman. She was elected district court judge in 1968, and ran for Supreme Court, but lost to fire extinguisher salesman with no legal knowledge.
Although it is impossible to say that Jacksons achievement represents the complete dismantling of prejudice against minorities globally, and that racism has been completely overcome, it is definitely an important step- paving the way for the future.