Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson herself didn't graduate from or teach at an HBCU, but the first Black woman to be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court is the daughter of HBCU grads. Her father, Johnny Brown, is a graduate of North Carolina Central University. And since her historic nomination comes during the last few days of Black History Month, we would be remiss not to mention her.
Of 115 U.S. Supreme Court Justices in history, five have been women and three have been people of color -- two Black men, and one Latina woman. In addition to being the first Black woman on the court, if confirmed, Judge Jackson will be the If confirmed, Judge Jackson will be the first former public defender to join the court; the path to federal court judge usually runs through the prosecutor's office. She was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, where she helped to lead efforts to reduce racist sentencing disparities for drug-related offenses.
In high school, she was a debate team champion -- opposing debaters always feared seeing her come their way -- and a national champion in oratory. In her high school yearbook, she wrote that she wanted to go into law and eventually have a judicial appointment. Mission. Accomplished.
She is expected to bring perspective around how people are impacted by judicial rulings to the court; in her time as a public defender, she was shocked by how little people knew about the law, and when she returned to the judgeship, she spent a lot of time trying to make sure people understood the impact of the law from the bench.
Young Students (K3-2nd Grade)
Judge Jackson said her father was her first real-life role model; he'd left his job as a teacher to go back to law school when she was a little girl. Who are your role models? In what ways do they inspire you?
Middle Students (Grades 3-8)
When Judge Jackson was 17, a drama teacher told her she probably wouldn't get a role she wanted in a play, because that character was meant to be white. When she was a senior in high school, her counselors told her she shouldn't try to go to Harvard and should instead set her sights a little lower. Have you ever been discouraged from chasing your dreams or interests by the adults around you? Has it impacted your dreams or what you've wanted to do?
High School Students (Grades 9-12)
Judge Jackson wrote in her high school yearbook that she wanted have a legal career and a judicial appointment when she grew up, and she did exactly what she said she was going to do. She also says her high school extracurriculars, particularly debate, prepared her for her future in law. What are you doing now to prepare you for the things you want in life? What do you consider the right balance between working hard and enjoying the time you have to be young?
Often, teachers and other adults in students' lives can stifle students' growth with low expectations rooted in implicit bias. Think about the expectations that you have for your students. Are they the same for everyone? If not, what factors determine your different levels of expectations? How are you encouraging all of your students to dream big and shoot for the moon?
About the Series
A Black Child Can was founded to create a better world for students by empowering the adults around them with the knowledge they need to advocate on their behalf. The 2022 blog series builds on this foundation, encouraging educators to participate in the discussion and reflect on the ways they're showing up for their students.