Here is a glance at this week in history and the pivotal events that have helped shape who we are as a nation:
On Sept. 24, 1789, 230 years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States was officially established. The Judiciary Act of 1789, which formally created the structure of the federal court system, was signed into law by President George Washington after its initial passing through the First Congress. The act was chiefly written by Connecticut native, Senator Oliver Ellsworth, who was born just 28 miles from the University of Connecticut Storrs campus. While the judicial branch of the Federal Government was established by Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution, much of this section was left particularly vague and needed future clarification through legislation. This act created a six justice tribunal to serve as the highest court in the nation and convene in New York City, the then capital of the United States.
Later that week, Congress would approve President Washington’s six Supreme Court nominations, with John Jay serving as the nation’s first Chief Justice. Over time, the U.S. Supreme Court would grow to be one of the most important judicial bodies in the world, with its core responsibility being interpretation of the Constitution, and ensuring that all future legislation follows the principles first written by our Founding Fathers.
On Sept. 25, 1957, 62 years ago, the Little Rock Nine attended their first full day of classes at Central High School in Little Rock, AR. Three years prior, the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, that racial segregation in any educational institution was illegal. At the start of the 1957 to 1958 school year, Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to block the nine African-American students from entering the doors of Central High School. For three weeks, the nine students were unable to attend classes and were met with hostility from violent and threatening mobs. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, outraged with Faubus’ defiance, federalized the National Guard and mobilized the Army’s 101st Airborne to safely escort the students to school. While they were able to attend classes from then on, the Little Rock Nine, as they were later called, still faced constant adversity and cruelty as students of Central High School. Despite this, the Little Rock Nine would become a beacon of struggle and triumph for African-American students nationwide, igniting the generation that would lead the Civil Rights Movement in the years to follow.
Also on Sept. 25, in 1981, 38 years ago, Sandra Day O’Connor took the Oath of Office to become the first female Supreme Court justice of the United States. She was formally nominated to the office by President Ronald Reagan in August of the same year, following a long career as a state senator and federal judge for the state of Arizona. She served as an associate justice to the Supreme Court for 24 years until retiring in January of 2006. She continues to remain active in the political world as an advocate for youth education, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2009.
Gino Giansanti is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.