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Ketanji Brown Jackson makes history as first Black woman justice in U.S. Supreme Court

Click to play video: 'Ketanji Brown Jackson makes history as 1st Black woman justice in US Supreme Court'
Ketanji Brown Jackson makes history as 1st Black woman justice in US Supreme Court
WATCH: Ketanji Brown Jackson makes history as 1st Black woman justice in US Supreme Court – Apr 7, 2022

In a historic vote Thursday the U.S. Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson as Supreme Court Justice, securing her place as the first Black woman on the high court.

The 51-year-old federal appeals court judge is the third Black justice — after Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas — and the sixth woman to hold that position.

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She joins two other women, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, on the liberal side of a 6-3 conservative court. With Justice Amy Coney Barrett sitting at the other end of the bench, four of the nine justices are now women for the first time in history.

Read more: Mitch McConnell says he cannot support Jackson for U.S. Supreme Court

President Joe Biden, a veteran of a more bipartisan Senate, said from the beginning that he wanted support from both Democrats and Republicans for his history-making nominee, and he invited members of the latter to the White House as he made his decision.

It was an attempted reset from three brutal Supreme Court battles during President Donald Trump’s presidency, when Democrats vociferously opposed the nominees, and from the end of President Barack Obama’s, when Republicans blocked Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland from getting a vote.

Click to play video: 'U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson set to make history'
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson set to make history

Before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, Jackson said her life was shaped by her parents’ experiences with racial segregation and civil rights laws that were enacted a decade before she was born.

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With her parents and family sitting behind her, she told the panel that her “path was clearer” than theirs as a Black American.

Jackson, who attended Harvard University served as a public defender and worked at a private law firm. She was appointed as a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission in addition to her nine years on the federal bench.

Click to play video: 'Ketanji Brown Jackson says she’s ‘humbled’ to be nominated for U.S. Supreme Court'
Ketanji Brown Jackson says she’s ‘humbled’ to be nominated for U.S. Supreme Court

“I have been a judge for nearly a decade now, and I take that responsibility and my duty to be independent very seriously,” Jackson said. “I decide cases from a neutral posture. I evaluate the facts, and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath.”

Once sworn in, Jackson would be the second youngest member of the court after Barrett, 50. She would join a court on which no one is yet 75, the first time that has happened in nearly 30 years.

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Cheers rang out in the U.S. Senate chamber as Jackson was confirmed 53-47, mostly along party lines but with three Republican votes. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the vote — also the first woman of colour to reach her high office.

Harris called out the tally, pausing with emotion as Democrats erupted in loud applause and cheers. A handful of Republicans stayed and clapped, but most had left by then.

Soon after, Biden tweeted, “We’ve taken another step toward making our highest court reflect the diversity of America.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer exulted that it was “a wonderful day, a joyous day, an inspiring day — for the Senate, for the Supreme Court and for the United States of America.”

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Harris said as she left the Capitol that she was “overjoyed, deeply moved.”

“This is a tremendously historic day in the White House and in the country,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki after the vote. “And this is a fulfillment of a promise the president made to the country.”

Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama were among those celebrating. “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 a part of the highest court in the land,” the former first lady wrote on Twitter.

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

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Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Senate’s no. 2 Democrat, said in a statement it was “History indeed. And long overdue.” New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, one of only three Black senators and an exuberant supporter of Jackson’s during her confirmation hearing, said in a video message on Twitter: “Today is a mountain of joy. Today is a day for celebration. Today I rejoice. I cry tears of joy.”

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, the city’s second Black woman to be mayor, called it “a day filled with great hope for the future of our country.”

Lawmakers weren’t the only ones cheering. Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., tweeted his congratulations, writing that Jackson’s nomination was “a long time coming.”

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

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— With files from The Associated Press 

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