Great-Granddaughter of Lynching Victim Sworn in as MI Supreme Court’s First Black Woman Justice
New Year's Day was an historic day for the Michigan Supreme Court as Kyra Harris Bolden became the first African American woman to serve as a court justice.
History Was Made in the Michigan Supreme Court
It's a significant moment in our state's history, as this is the first time a Black woman has never been elected to serve as a justice in the court's 185-year history and because Harris Bolden is the great-granddaughter of a man who was lynched in 1939.
Harris Bolden was Governor Gretchen Whitmer's choice to replace Chief Justice Bridget McCormack when she retired from the Supreme Court in the summer of last year.
Inspired by Her Great Grandfather
In her acceptance speech, Harris Bolden addressed her five-month-old daughter, not yet old enough to understand the history her mother is making.
"Emerson, in just a few generations, our family has gone from lynching to law school," she said. "From injustice to a capital 'J'-Justice."
She tells CNN that she feels the progress that has been made is amazing but explains that there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done to combat racism.
Harris Bolden explains that great-grandfather, Jesse Lee Bond was lynched in 1939 because he asked a store owner for a receipt. He was then beaten, castrated, and thrown into a local river. His death was ruled an "accidental drowning" by the coroner's office and no one was charged with his murder.
Knowing her great-grandfather's history drove her to pursue a career in law.
“Once I realized that was something that happened in my own family, less than 100 years ago, I felt the need to be a part of the justice system.”
Governor Gretchen Whitmer commented on the appointment, saying, "185 years and we've never had an African American woman on the state's highest court, it's about damn time."
Watch Harris Bolden's moving interview with CNN below.