On February 25, 2022, President Joe Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to become the 116th Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. If confirmed, Judge Jackson would be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
“BLACK HISTORY IS MADE,” Robert F. Smith tweeted in regards to her nomination in February 2022. “Congratulations to Ketanji Brown Jackson! She is now the first Black woman nominated to serve on our highest court. She is supremely qualified, and her expertise is critical. Our country needs a rapid confirmation.” If her nomination is confirmed, Judge Jackson would be the sixth woman on the court, and the third Black justice in history.
Jackson was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Miami, Florida with her parents working as public school administrators. Her father left the field of education to attend law school, and Jackson traces back her love of law to observing her father complete his law school homework when she was a child. Like Judge Constance Baker Motley, who made history as the first Black woman to both become a federal judge and argue a case before the Supreme Court, Jackson was born on September 14.
According to the Whitehouse, Jackson dreamed of attending Harvard University, but was told by a guidance counselor at her high school ‘not set her “sights so high.”’
Jackson graduated magna cum laude, with a Bachelor’s degree in Government from Harvard University in 1992, and then attended Harvard Law School, where she was an editor for Harvard Law Review. She received her J.D. cum laude in 1996. If confirmed, Jackson would be the 11th Harvard College alumni and the 18th Harvard Law School graduate to serve on the Supreme Court, according to The Harvard Crimson.
Before her nomination, Jackson was confirmed to serve in 2021 on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. From 2013 until 2021, she served as a district judge on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Jackson also worked as an assistant federal public defender in D.C. And, she clerked for three federal judges including Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer.
Another first for Jackson, should she be confirmed, would be the first ever justice to serve on the Supreme Court who has spent time as a public defender.
Robert F. Smith’s Work to Help Minority Students Succeed Professionally
Like Jackson, philanthropist Robert F. Smith also had parents who were educators and who worked to attain their doctoral degrees in education as he grew up. Smith is passionate about education and helping others build the infrastructure to help support the next generation of leaders of color in America. He has been focused on educational initiatives that help women and students of color not only complete a college education, but find fulfilling careers.
In 2019, Smith helped launch Student Freedom Initiative, a nonprofit organization that currently offers funding alternatives to college upperclassmen pursuing STEM degrees at participating historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU). In addition to loan alternatives, Student Freedom Initiative partners with participating HBCUs, corporate partners, community-based organizations, and others to offer student support resources including tutoring, resume writing, interview techniques workshops and mentoring. Finally, Student Freedom Initiative works directly with InternXL to give students access to internship opportunities.
This Women’s History Month, learn more about the historic contributions of Black women.