The confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court was a moment of triumph for nearly every Black person in this country.
The joy that exuded from our community when her confirmation became official was beautiful but it probably paled in comparison to the validation, inspiration, and motivation that it gave to Black Law School students across the nation, especially the ones attending historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
“It was such an inspiring moment it reminded me of when President Barack Obama was elected to the presidency. I had that same pride, passion, and exuberance,” Edrius Stagg, a third-year part-time evening division Law Student at Southern University Law Center told NewsOne in an exclusive. “Those things that we have heard KBJ do throughout her career, Black women have been doing that for the entirety of the time I have been living. They haven’t been given the necessary just due for the things that they are able to accomplish oftentimes in the shadow of men.”
While Jackson went to Harvard for undergrad and law school, her elevation to the Supreme Court opens the door for Black talent everywhere to get the recognition they deserve, especially in HBCU law schools.
According to the American Bar Association, Black lawyers make up only 4.7 percent of all lawyers in the country. Fifty percent of these Black lawyers and 80 percent of those who become judges are from HBCU programs, according to stats from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
It’s no secret that these programs are producing some of the best and brightest law professionals even though they have traditionally been overlooked.
“Everyone knows students from Southern University Law Center when they graduate they are courtroom ready and that’s not the same as my colleagues at LSU or Tulane or Loyola,” said Viky McDonald, a third-year Law Student at Southern University Law Center, recently told NewsOne. “You hear students from the other institutions telling us ‘when you graduate from Southern you are courtroom ready, we are not’ and I think that that’s the plus of what the HBCU culture provides. It gives us equal access and allows all of us to have an impact.”
Many HBCU alums will tell you that this culture exists in almost every HBCU institution in the country and the law programs are no exception. The inclusive and hands-on learning culture is one of the main things that helps propel these students to be successful.
“One thing that cannot be measured on an exam like the LSAT is the grit, the tenacity, the willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done. I believe going to an HBCU teaches you that,” said Stagg. “The Administration, the professors, the faculty, the staff, they know what it takes. They understand what is necessary in order to make that transition from where we are starting to where we are trying to go. It’s highly undervalued in the sense that people are not really paying attention to us.”
These HBCU Law programs are playing a significant role in preparing the next generation of Black legal professionals to make a huge impact on society. McDonald said that when she started at Southern University Law Center in 2019 they had around 300 students, now the school is hovering around 900 students. The Black lawyers of the future will likely be products of these HBCU programs.
“We have a lot of innovators, a lot of movers and shakers. We have a lot of students who are willing to roll their sleeves up and that’s good because this type of work requires time, dedication, and commitment,” said McDonald. “This moment did show us that we do have much more work to put in, but KBJ she won’t be the first nor the last to represent us.”