Black History Month banner image

Black History Month: Honoring those who broke barriers and a look at the continuing push for equality

February 26, 2021

February is Black History Month, and the National Center for State Courts marked the occasion by recognizing some of the brave individuals who fought to break barriers and expand the judicial system to the Black community. Their early accomplishments were instrumental to maintaining the legitimacy of the judicial branch and continued acceptance of the court’s authority within the communities the courts serve. Some forged the path for a diverse judicial system almost 200 years ago, others are making headlines in 2021. Macon Bolling Allen, Jonathan Jasper Wright, Jane Matilda Bolin, Julia Cooper Mack, Robert Nix, Jr., Martin Jenkins are only a few names on the lists of firsts, but their contributions, sacrifices, and hardships endured all in the name of bringing equal representation to the judicial system.

February’s Trends Online provides a brief glimpse of these trailblazers. The article also takes a look at the current state of gender and racial diversity in the state judicial system and what some jurisdictions are doing to improve their diversity and inclusion. The long-standing issue of racial justice in the United States came to the fore in 2020. Racial justice and equality are not new nor unique issues to the United States. Jurisdictions like California, Connecticut, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington already had programs in place to increase the diversity of their benches. These programs can provide insights and in some cases roadmaps for other jurisdictions to make their bench more reflective of the population they serve. The solutions are wide-ranging and include mentoring programs, recruitment initiatives, and partnerships with bar organizations. The State Justice Institute and The National Center for State Courts have also assisted in the effort, working with Oregon to diversity the jurisdiction’s judicial branch.

To read more about these pioneers of judicial diversity and how your court can take steps to also become more diverse check out 2021 Issue 2 of Trends Online: Black History Month: Honoring those who broke barriers and a look at the continuing push for equality. Also, make sure to visit the National Center for State Court’s Racial Justice Center for the latest on the issue.

How is your court increasing diversity? Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest and share your experiences.