Senate Confirms Kristen Clarke as First Black Woman to Lead Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division

Kristen Clarke, a longtime civil rights lawyer, now leads the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

Democrats confirmed Kristen Clarke on Tuesday as the first Black woman to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division, a historic step that came on the anniversary of George Floyd’s killing — and after a vitriolic campaign by Republicans over her stance on policing.

The vote was 51-48 with Sen. Susan Collins as the only Republican voting for her confirmation. Clarke’s confirmation breaks barriers in a department that was established in 1957.

She was ceremonially sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris at the Justice Department on Tuesday evening. Harris spokesperson Symone Sanders praised Clarke as “a timeless champion of equal justice” in a statement before the ceremony.

“This is a historic moment because for the first time since its creation, following the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the confirmed Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights will be a woman, and will be a black woman, and that is Kristen Clarke,” Sanders said.

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

Her legal career began at the Justice Department which has allowed her to travel across the country into communities like Tensas Parish, Louisiana, and Clarksdale, Mississippi, she said at her confirmation hearing in April.

“Our nation is a healthier place when we respect the rights of all communities. In every role I’ve held, I have worked for and with people of all backgrounds — regardless of race, national origin, religion and disability status,” Clarke wrote. “I’ve listened deeply to all sides of debates, regardless of political affiliation. There is no substitute to listening and learning in this work, and I pledge to you that I will bring that to the role if confirmed.”

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SOURCE: CNN, Christina Carrega

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