Ceremonial Swearing-In of Kristen Clarke as Asst. Attorney General of Civil Rights at the DOJ. (source: cspan.org)

S. E. Williams | Black Voice News

Tuesday evening May 25, Vice President and history maker Kamala Harris swore in another history maker, civil rights legal advocate Kristen Clarke to serve as the nation’s first Black woman to lead the US Department of Justice’s Division for Civil Rights. 

Clarke was sworn in after being confirmed by The Senate earlier in the day by a vote of 51 to 48 largely split along party lines. 

Clarke has a long history with the Department of Justice. After having interned with the DOJ in 1999, an experience that may have helped shape  her legal career, she subsequently turned down a position at a private law firm to work in public service. ,

During her career which spans  20-years, she served three tours as part of federal civil rights teams and was also an assistant counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. 

President Joe Biden nominated Clarke for the position in January but her nomination was staunchly opposed by Republican senators who sought to derail it and in the process, delayed her confirmation for months. Many believe their rabid opposition was largely in response to her role as the former head of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and well earned  reputation as a prominent voting rights advocate. 

Clarke, whose parents emigrated from Jamaica, West Indies, is a first generation born American who earned degrees from Harvard University and Columbia University School of Law.

During a White House Press Briefing the day after Clarke was sworn in, Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre commented on the history making appointment. 

“Kristen’s career was launched in the office that she now leads.  She personally prosecuted crimes based on hatred and bigotry, human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault.  She has served at two of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations, where she worked on everything from voting rights to equal education and employment.  At the Department of Justice, she will continue advancing civil rights progress, including on police reform.”

Jeanne-Pierre affirmed, “The President was proud to nominate Kristenn” concluding he is honored to have her serve in this key leadership position.  

S. E. Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News.