How Black Men Have Influenced the Past, Present, and Future of the Supreme Court

Photo credit: Associated Press/Jacqueline Martian

With the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer, the United States Supreme Court will soon have an empty seat. This change is an extremely important moment in Joe Biden’s presidency, considering how impactful and long-lasting the position of Supreme Court Justice is. He may only have this one opportunity to affect the future of the United States in such a way, so it came as a surprise to many when it was announced that he would be nominating a Black woman to the seat. The President received immediate backlash for prioritizing race and gender over experience for such a significant decision. But despite the criticism, Biden seems certain that diversity is the number one thing that the SCOTUS needs. Provided that he follows through with this promise, this would make his nominee the first Black woman to ever serve in the nation’s highest court, but not the first African American.

The road that led us to potentially having a Black woman in the Supreme Court was partially paved by the first two Black men to serve as Justices. Thurgood Marshall, and now Clarence Thomas, have been the sole Black voices on the SCOTUS for decades. However, despite them being the same race and experiencing the same struggles, these two men are complete polar opposites when it comes to their judgment. Thomas being a staunch conservative and Marshall being an outspoken liberal, the two had very different opinions on what is best for Black people and the country as a whole. And if Biden does select a Black woman, she’ll have to decide whose footsteps she’ll follow in.

Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court Justice, used his time in the Court to push for equality for all Americans. The NAACP leader often voted to add to and change the Constitution to help fight discrimination within America. In cases like Bowers v. Hardwick and Furman v. Georgia, Justice Marshall decided in favor of protecting the people over protecting the Constitution. He used his judicial powers to try and help the Constitution evolve along with the American people. Freedom and rights were much more important to him than old laws, and he made sure to protect the freedom and rights of the American people at all costs.

During an anniversary celebration for the Constitution, the Justice had this to say about the document, “Some may more quietly commemorate the suffering, struggle, and sacrifice that has triumphed over much of what was wrong with the original document, and observe the anniversary with hopes not r