The Senate on Thursday voted 53-47 to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Three Republican senators — Mitt Romney (Utah), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) — joined all 48 Democrats and two independents in voting to confirm Jackson to the nation’s highest court.
Vice President Kamala Harris, the nation’s first woman, first Asian American and first African American to hold that office, presided over the historic vote.
Jackson, 51, will become the Supreme Court’s 116th justice and first Black woman ever to sit on its bench.
Of the 115 justices that came before Jackson, 110 were white men, two were Black men, four were white women, and one was a Latina woman.
“In the 233-year history of the Supreme Court, never, never has a Black woman held the title of justice,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a speech before the vote.
“Ketanji Brown Jackson will be the first and I believe the first of more to come.”
President Biden stands with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as they watch the Senate vote to confirm her nomination to the Supreme Court from the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Thursday
Jackson faced numerous attacks from Republicans during her marathon confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month.
Her confirmation comes less than two months after President Biden introduced the federal district court judge as his pick to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer — fulfilling his campaign promise of appointing a Black woman to the Supreme Court. Breyer will retire at the end of the court’s current term later this year.
When she does take her seat, the nine-member court will be composed of four women — Jackson and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett — the most ever at one time.
It will also be the first time in U.S. history that white men won’t be the majority on the Supreme Court. The bench will include five men, four of them white.
Her confirmation also represents a monumental moment for African Americans — especially women.
“So many children and generations to come will never know a Supreme Court without a Black woman,” said Keenan Austin Reed, co-founder of the Black Women’s Congressional Alliance. “I am excited about all the students who will now go to law school because of her and for all the brown babies that will be named Ketanji. Judge Jackson’s story is a story of perseverance and I could not be more inspired or proud.”
Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 14, 1970. As a young child, she moved to Miami, Fla., with her parents — graduates of historically Black colleges and universities who worked as public school teachers.
Jackson had credited her father for inspiring her to pursue law, as he became a full-time law student when she was 4 years old.
“My very earliest memories are of watching my father study,” Jackson said during her confirmation hearings. “He had his stack of law books on the kitchen table while I sat across from him with my stack of coloring books.”
She graduated from Harvard University and Harvard Law School, where she met her future husband, Dr. Patrick Jackson, a gastrointestinal surgeon. They married in 1996 and have two daughters, Leila and Talia.
Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 21. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Jackson will also be the first Supreme Court justice since Thurgood Marshall to have represented indigent criminal defendants.
She represented Guantanamo Bay detainees as a public defender and later worked on the issue in private practice.
In addition to her public-defender work, Jackson served as vice chairman of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, working to reduce the penalties for crack cocaine offenders.
She was appointed to that post in 2009 by former President Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president.
Obama also nominated Jackson to be a district court judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2012. She was confirmed with bipartisan support in 2013.