Justice Jackson Reminds: History Cannot Be Whitewashed


Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson recently encouraged Americans not to avoid confronting uncomfortable truths about the history of violence against Black Americans.

While on hand to memorialize the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, Justice Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on America’s highest Court, stressed that Americans have to confront harsh realities about race in America. During a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the bombing of the church, Brown delivered a speech that hits back at the tendency of state leaders like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to attempt to sanitize history by removing parts that may be uncomfortable for them, NBC News reports.

 “If we are going to continue to move forward as a nation, we cannot allow concerns about discomfort to displace knowledge, truth or history. It is certainly the case that parts of this country’s story can be hard to think about,” Jackson said. 

 Her comments come as Alabama’s Republican leaders seek to recreate a congressional map that a lower court has already said denied Black voters political determination following a Supreme Court’s ruling in June 2023 that set out that the Voting Rights Act was enacted to protect Black voters from political retaliation. 

Jackson has been a voice often critical of some of the legal interpretations of her conservative colleagues on the Court. She authored a minority dissent on the Affirmative Action case earlier in 2023, establishing that admission policy violated the equal protection clause. Jackson then, as in this speech, argued that America’s long and unfortunate history with regard to its unequal treatment of Black citizens could not be divorced from its unwillingness to acknowledge the atrocities of the past largely perpetuated on lines of race. In her dissent, Jackson addresses history.

“It would be deeply unfortunate if the Equal Protection Clause actually demanded this perverse, a historical, and counterproductive outcome. To impose this result in that Clause’s name when it requires no such thing, and to thereby obstruct our collective progress toward the full realization of the Clause’s promise, is truly a tragedy for us all,” she wrote.

As it relates to the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church by the KKK that claimed the lives of four African-American girls, there is a growing movement not to forget there were also two Black boys (16-year-old Johnny Robinson and 13-year-old Virgil Ware) who died in the aftermath of the bombing that took the lives of Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carol Robertson, and Denise McNair. 

“While the bombing happened that morning, their deaths that afternoon were the residual effects of the terror. Those individuals who exacted that terror upon Virgil and Johnny, they were emboldened by what happened that day,” DeJuana Thompson, president of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, told NBC News.

RELATED CONTENT: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Jackson, Embarking on First Term, Says Her Appointment Inspires Pride Among Americans


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