Historic Echoes as Mississippi Senators Vote No on Jackson Nomination

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tags: Supreme Court, Senate, Mississippi, judiciary, Ketanji Brown Jackson

The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman in history to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, but both of Mississippi’s U.S. senators, Republicans Cindy Hyde-Smith and Roger Wicker, voted no.

The vote comes almost 55 years after two of the state’s former U.S. senators, Democrats James O. Eastland and John C. Stennis, voted against confirming Thurgood Marshall as the first Black man to serve on the nation’s high court. Biden, who nominated Jackson, once counted Eastland and Stennis as mentors during his early days in the U.S. Senate.

Judith Browne Dianis, the executive director of Advancement Project, a civil rights organization, noted in a statement after today’s vote that Jackson “is also the first public defender” to serve on the court.

“The highest Court in the land now will have a firsthand perspective of how the law impacts communities of color—via voting rights, police misconduct, abortion access, housing discrimination, or the criminal legal system, among other issues,” Dianis said. “This  will ultimately benefit all Americans.”

As a 2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden vowed to appoint the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court—a promise he reiterated in January 2022 after Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement. Even before Biden announced he had chosen Jackson, though, Sen. Wicker told SuperTalk Mississippi radio host Paul Gallo in January that he did not plan to support the president’s nominee. Wicker said then that any Black woman the president chose would be a “beneficiary” of an affirmative action “quota”—earning a rebuke from the White House.

‘Activism’ Not A New Concern

After President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Thurgood Marshall for the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967, southern senators cited his history of civil-rights advocacy as a strike against him. As a lawyer, Marshall had successfully argued Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka before the nation’s high court, leading to the downfall of public school segregation.

“Are you prejudiced against the white people of the South?” Sen. Eastland, a staunch segregationist from the Mississippi Delta, asked Marshall during his confirmation hearings.

“No, not at all,” the nominee said.

Read entire article at Mississippi Free Press