Kristen Clarke confirmed as first black woman to lead Justice Department Civil Rights division

The Senate confirmed Kristen Clarke as the first Black woman to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division on Tuesday with a 51-48 vote following an additional procedural step as Republicans objected to her nomination.

Clarke is a first-generation American whose parents immigrated from Jamaica West Indies, and she earned degrees from Harvard University and Columbia University School of Law before working as a trial attorney for the Civil Rights division’s criminal and voting sections during the George W. Bush administration. She also served as co-director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s voting rights group and most recently as president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

During her confirmation hearing, Clarke said she does not support defunding the police but does support “finding strategies to ensure that law enforcement can carry out their jobs more safely and effectively and channeling resources to emotional health treatment and other severely under-resourced areas.” Clarke’s nomination comes one year after George Floyd was killed by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, Biden pushed for Clarke’s confirmation last month when Chauvin was convicted on murder charges in Floyd’s death, saying she and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta would “root out the unconstitutional policing and reform our criminal justice system.”