Ketanji Brown Jackson has been sworn in as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, becoming the first Black woman to serve as a justice in the 232-year history of the Court.

In an historic ceremony at the Supreme Court shortly after the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer took effect at noon on June 30, 2022, Chief Justice John Roberts administered the Constitutional Oath to Justice Jackson (pictured). Justice Breyer, for whom Justice Jackson served as a law clerk during the Court’s 1999-2000 term, then administered the Judicial Oath.

Jackson, the 116th justice of the Court, was elevated to the Court by President Joe Biden from her position as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She is the first former federal public defender to serve on the Court and the first justice since Thurgood Marshall’s appointment in 1967 to have any significant experience representing indigent defendants in criminal cases.

In nominating Jackson, President Biden said, “For too long, our government, our courts haven’t looked like America. … I believe it’s time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of extraordinary qualifications and that we inspire all young people to believe that they can one day serve their country at the highest level.” Jackson’s ascension to the Court marks the first time in its history that a majority of the justices are not White men.

“With a full heart, I accept the solemn responsibility of supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States and administering justice without fear or favor, so help me God,” Jackson said. “I am truly grateful to be part of the promise of our great Nation.”

Even with its increased racial and gender diversity, Jackson joins a Court with three judicial appointments by former President Donald Trump and a conservative supermajority that has aggressively rewritten federal statutory and constitutional law. The Court has just completed a judicial term that has been described as the most conservative since 1931 — the year before the Court held in Powell v. Alabama that indigent capital defendants have a due process right to be represented by appointed counsel.

Jackson is “joining the court at a time when conservatives are … trying to actually take us back” and undo the progress that has been made in the country, Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization devoted to racial justice and multi-racial grassroots organizing, told the Associated Press. “It’s like the Civil War that never ended,” Dianis said. “That’s the court that she’s joining.”

Jackson replaces a justice who expressed increasing skepticism about the constitutionality of capital punishment, and her appointment is not expected to have an immediate impact on the ideological dominance of the right wing of the Court on death-penalty or other social justice issues. Despite that political reality, Dianis said, “This is a momentous occasion and it’s still a beautiful moment.”

Glynda Carr, the President and CEO of Higher Heights for America, a political action committee working for the election and empowerment of Black women, also celebrated Jackson’s elevation to the Court. However, she cautioned that “one Black woman or a cohort of Black women can’t save this democracy alone. We are a piece of it and we are doing our work, our part. She’s going to forever reshape and shape that court,” Carr told AP. “But she’s just a piece of the work that needs to happen moving forward.”


Ximena Bustillo, Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in as first Black woman on the Supreme Court, NPR, June 30, 2022; Mark Sherman, Jackson sworn in, becomes 1st Black woman on Supreme Court, Associated Press, June 30, 2022; Olivia Olander, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in to Supreme Court, Politico, June 30, 2022; Bry’onna Mention, Ketanji Brown Jackson Sworn In To Supreme Court As First Black Woman Justice, Essence, June 302022.

The pho­to­graph is a screen­shot from Supreme Court video of Justice Jackson’s swear­ing in. Her hus­band, Patrick Jackson, holds Justice Jackson’s fam­i­ly bible and the Harlan Bible, donat­ed to the Court by Justice John Marshall Harlan. Justice Harlan pro­vid­ed the lone dis­sent­ing vote from the Court’s 1896 rul­ing in Plessy v. Ferguson that approved racial seg­re­ga­tion in sep­a­rate but equal” facilities.