Was every Supreme Court Justice a white man until 1981?

Tuesday, February 15, 2022
By Austin Tannenbaum

There was one non-white Supreme Court justice on the bench before 1981: civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall, who was appointed in 1967.

In 2018, CNN published an article highlighting that all but six Supreme Court justices have been white men. The exceptions at the time were:

  • Thurgood Marshall (1967-1991).
  • Sandra Day O'Connor (1981-2006).
  • Clarence Thomas (1991-present).
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1993-2020).
  • Sonia Sotomayor (2009-present).
  • Elena Kagan (2010-present).

Since then, two more justices have been appointed. One was Amy Coney Barret, bringing the total number of non-white justices to seven of the 115 who have served on the court as of February 2022.

Last month, Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement. President Biden is expected to nominate a Black woman to replace him.

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