Jamaican-American, Kristen Clarke, Becomes The First Woman & The First Black Woman To Be Confirmed To Lead The Civil Rights Division

The US Senate voted to confirm Kristen Clarke as the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Justice Department. Clarke becomes the first woman and the first Black woman to be confirmed to lead the Civil Rights Division.

Clarke’s parents immigrated to New York from Jamaica a few years before her birth. She talked about her parents and how she grew up in an interview with ABA Journal in 2016 saying ” [I] grew up in a household that was about discipline, working hard in school and about making the most of every opportunity”.

Clarke attended Harvard University where she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in 1997. Clarke completed her Juris Doctor in 2000 at Columbia University.

Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), issued the following statement regarding Kristen Clarke’s confirmation:

“The confirmation of Kristen Clarke as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights is momentous and deeply significant. Ms. Clarke, a former LDF attorney and lifelong civil rights lawyer, is supremely qualified for this position. Her highly distinguished career as an attorney working on myriad civil rights issues – including voting rights and election protection and educational equity — makes her the ideal choice to take the helm of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division at this critical time. Her intellect, integrity, legal acumen, and commitment to civil rights are exactly what is needed to open a new chapter for the beleaguered Division.

“Ms. Clarke’s confirmation is a groundbreaking one. She is the first woman — and first Black woman — to be confirmed to lead the Civil Rights Division. She is also the fifth LDF alum to serve as leader of the Civil Rights Division. We are thrilled to celebrate this historic moment alongside Ms. Clarke and look forward to working with her and the entire DOJ leadership team as they undertake imperative civil rights enforcement work.

“Indeed, now that the DOJ’s leadership team is fully installed, we anticipate the Civil Rights Division will once again prioritize its stated purpose of upholding ‘the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans’. This restoration of the division’s long-held duty is urgently needed amid relentless threats to and infringements on rights and equality in this country — especially in the areas of voting and protester rights and protection from white supremacist violence. We are encouraged that the department is in capable hands and comprised of individuals immediately ready to carry out this vital work.”

Photo: David Hills/Lawyerscommittee.org