Trailblazing Illinois women ‘beyond thrilled’ for Justice Jackson: History-maker, inspiration, role model — ‘and she’s brilliant’

Jackson, a federal judge since 2013, on Thursday became the first Black woman elevated to the nation’s highest court. Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted that her “ascension to the bench now tells the world that the seemingly impossible is possible. So proud!”

SHARE Trailblazing Illinois women ‘beyond thrilled’ for Justice Jackson: History-maker, inspiration, role model — ‘and she’s brilliant’
Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, in February, shortly before President Joe Biden nominated the U.S. Circuit Judge for a seat on the nation’s top court.

Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, in February, shortly before President Joe Biden nominated the U.S. Circuit judge for a seat on the nation’s top court.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP file

For Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, the swearing in of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson on Thursday sparked mixed emotions — a disheartening feeling that it took so long for a Black woman to rise to the nation’s top court and elation that it finally happened.

“I think Ketanji, her name, the way she wears her hair, her skin tone, what that means for me as a dark-skinned Black woman lawyer to see myself reflected in her presence — and she’s brilliant — is what I’m happy my daughters get to see,” Foxx told the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday.

Jackson, a federal judge since 2013, on Thursday became the first Black woman elevated to the nation’s highest court, taking the place of the jurist she once worked for, Justice Stephen Breyer, whose retirement was effective at noon.

Jackson now joins three other women on the nine–member court.

Then Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson makes brief remarks after U.S. President Joe Biden introduced her as his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 25.

Then Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson makes brief remarks after U.S. President Joe Biden introduced her as his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 25.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Foxx, who was the first Black woman elected as the county’s top prosecutor, is among the state’s elected officials who were beaming with pride as Jackson was sworn in.

“I’m elated because finally, after hundreds of years, to have that representation on the court. It shouldn’t have taken that long,” Foxx told the Sun-Times as she left a White House meeting with fellow prosecuting attorneys to discuss policies around the criminalization of HIV and AIDS.

“So when I say mixed emotions, I know that there were qualified, imminently qualified, Black women who were ready to take their place throughout history. And so, the fact that we are in 2022 here with the first appointment, is a little dispiriting. But I am elated that we’re here.”

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx at the Union League Club of Chicago in March.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx at the Union League Club of Chicago in March.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

“I’m beyond thrilled, beyond thrilled.” Foxx said.

Toni Preckwinkle, who made history in 2010 by becoming the first Black woman to be elected Cook County Board president, said she was proud of Jackson and grateful to President Joe Biden for nominating her.

“It’s truly an affirmation, and she has an outstanding record of which we can all be proud. So, I wish her well,” Preckwinkle said. “I think the more progressive members of the court are in for a difficult slog here, given the fact that we have six very conservative judges on the court, but I’m sure she’ll hold her own.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle shakes hands with supporters outside Beulah Shoesmith Elementary School on Tuesday.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle shakes hands with supporters outside Beulah Shoesmith Elementary School on Tuesday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the first Black woman to serve as mayor of Chicago, was among the Illinois Democrats who trekked to Washington, D.C., on April 8 to celebrate Jackson’s nomination on the White House lawn.

On Thursday, Lightfoot tweeted that Jackson is “now a history maker.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Mayor Lori Lightfoot in 2019.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

“Young girls in America everywhere can look to her & be inspired to follow in her footsteps,” Lightfoot tweeted. “Justice Brown Jackson’s diverse lived experience now represented on the bench is more valuable than ever. Justice Brown Jackson’s ascension to the bench now tells the world that the seemingly impossible is possible. So proud!”

And Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, who in 2019 became the state’s first Black lieutenant governor and the first Black woman to serve as a constitutional officer in state history, said the swearing in is a reminder of hope “as widespread attacks on women’s rights continue across the nation.”

Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton at one of the confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in March.

Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton at one of the confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in March.

Provided

“Just last week, the nation saw the U.S. Supreme Court take away a woman’s right to choose,” Stratton said in a statement. “Today, we celebrate because women’s voices will not be silenced. We will push forward and break glass ceilings. May this historic moment drive us to continue standing up and speaking out so we may be seen and heard.”

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