Obamas, students cheer for 1st black female High Court judge

“There are 53 votes in favor and 47 against on this vote, and this nomination is confirmed,” Vice President Kamala Harris said from her chair, which presided over the Senate. Then she smiled.

And with that, the nation’s first female and first black vice president announced the confirmation of the first black woman on the Supreme Court. Ketanji Brown Jackson will join the High Court following the resignation of Justice Stephen Breyer this summer.

Cheers erupted in the Senate chamber. Jackson and President Joe Biden hugged in the White House.

The reaction to Jackson’s confirmation was jubilant from many quarters, and the word “historic” was repeated over and over again. Others, including Republican lawmakers who overwhelmingly voted against her, persisted in criticizing her record, calling her an activist judge.

At Howard University Law School, students watching the vote live on television listened intently from a conference room in Houston Hall, the main academic building. Students at the historically black school erupted in applause as the vote was announced by Harris, who attended Howard as a student and is also the first person of South Asian descent to become vice president.

“We have a dark-skinned black woman with curly hair on the Supreme Court, and she’s going to be looking for court clerks,” said 27-year-old freshman Jasmine Marchbanks-Owens, referring to the young attorneys who served the Supreme Court’s justices for a year Court help with their work.

Among the revelers were former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama. “Like so many of you, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride — a sense of joy — to know that this deserving, accomplished black woman will be part of the country’s highest court,” the former first lady wrote on Twitter .

“This is a great day for America and a proud moment in our history,” her husband wrote.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat said in a statement it was “indeed history. And long overdue.” New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, one of only three black senators and an ardent supporter of Jackson during her confirmation hearing, said in a video message on Twitter, “Today is a mountain of rejoicing. Today is a day for celebration. I’m happy today. I cry tears of joy.”

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, the city’s second black mayor, called it “a day of hope for our country’s future.”

Not only the legislature rejoiced. Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., tweeted his congratulations and wrote that Jackson’s nomination was “a long time coming.”

“I know there are millions of young girls just like my daughter who are looking forward to this moment,” he wrote.

Martín Sabelli, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said Jackson also brings a diversity of experiences to the court. She will be the first female judge to have a significant criminal defense on her resume since Thurgood Marshall, the legendary civil rights attorney who became the first black man to stand trial. Sabelli hopes to see even more perspectives from state defenders “in the trenches” reflected in the judiciary.

At Harvard, Jackson’s alma mater, law students watched as the final vote took place. Historically, black schools also celebrated.

“As a proud ‘daddy of girls,’ I couldn’t be more thrilled to have the opportunity to explain to my two young daughters what this historic moment means for the African American community. Another glass ceiling has been permanently destroyed at the national level. Representation matters,” wrote Jackson State University President Thomas K. Hudson to students, faculty and staff at the historically black Mississippi school.

Only three Republicans in the evenly divided Senate voted to confirm Jackson: Maine’s Susan Collins, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, and Utah’s Mitt Romney.

In a statement after the vote, Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel called Jackson “a radical, activist judge” who was “in step with the political agenda of the far left.” She vowed that Republicans would “hold Democrats accountable this November for supporting Biden’s radical election.”

At Howard University, the celebration didn’t last long. There was something to learn. Still, Benjamin Baker, 27, of Sylacauga, Alabama, called Jackson’s confirmation “monumental” and said it was for all black women who had come before her. “This is for her and for all black women who will come after her,” he said.


Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Zeke Miller in Washington, Aaron Morrison in New York City, Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans, and Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

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