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America’s Historic Building Block of Justice

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmed as Justice to U.S. Supreme Court, marking historic milestone for USA

The April 7, 2022 vote of the U. S. Senate to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black Woman Justice to the U. S. Supreme Court was historic, and monumental for this nation.

157 years ago, on April 11, 1865, two days after Confederate General, Robert E. Lee had surrendered, ending the Civil War; President Abraham Lincoln delivered an address from a window in the White House overlooking the North Lawn. President Lincoln verbally described the next steps for the Federal Government to implement the Emancipation Proclamation which he had signed into law on January 1st, 1865.

During this speech, President Lincoln delivered a number of complex strategies to be employed by the Federal Government during an era termed Reconstruction; and-for the first time-President Lincoln stated that he would use the power of his office to insure that Blacks would become citizens with the right to vote. Upon hearing that Blacks would have the right to vote, a member of the audience, John Wilkes Booth, declared that “this is the last speech he will ever give” and assassinated President Lincoln three days later, at the Ford Theater on April 14th.

It should not be lost to students of history, that President Abraham Lincoln’s first public statement supporting Black Suffrage was April 11th, only two days after the Confederate surrender signaling the end of the Civil War. The April 7th, 2022 vote of the U. S. Senate to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to serve as a Justice on the United States Supreme Court is built on the heroic advocacy and the legacy of untold numbers who have fought for freedom, justice, dignity and freedom and for all who dare to believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the solemn, sacred promise enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution “We the People…”The 15th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution was ratified in February, 1870, codifying the right of Blacks to vote; but challenges persisted for Black voters until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965–a landmark law that has been decimated in recent years, by virulent right-wing proponents- and the Voting Rights Act remains under attack in 2022. Eternal advocacy and vigilance is key!

It is important that April be viewed as an historic benchmark for Black voting rights dating back to President Abraham Lincoln’s public endorsement of Black Suffrage on April 11, 1865. Another “Justice Building Block” was erected when President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated the legendary Thurgood Marshall, as the first Black man on the U. S. Supreme Court . Marshall had founded the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and was the lead attorney in the landmark case, Brown v Board of Education. He was confirmed by the Senate in 1967.

Also, a key cornerstone among the building blocks of Justice was the appointment of the brilliant Judge Constance Baker Motley to the Federal Bench-the first Black woman to serve in this role. Judge Constance Baker Motley was eminently qualified to sit on the U. S. Supreme Court! She had won 9 of 10 cases argued before the Supreme Court, she was one of the attorneys who successfully argued Brown v Board of Education, she represented Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King; and was regarded by legal analysts as one of the most exceptional jurists in the USA.

Standing on the shoulders of Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley; Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first Black woman confirmed by the Senate on April 7, 2022, to become a Justice on the U. S. Supreme Court. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated by President Joe Biden; and this latest Justice Building Block will be long viewed as a major milestone among America’s building blocks of Justice.

Reprinted by the permission of the author, Rev. Dr. JoAnn N. Watson