For more on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, watch CNN Films’ “RBG” Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Since the US Supreme Court was established in 1789, 115 justices have served on the bench.
Of those, 108 have been White men.
In July, President Trump announced his nominee to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy is Brett Kavanaugh, a judge on the US Court of Appeals. If confirmed, he would be the 108th – and wouldn’t shift the diversity of the current court.
Here’s how the demographics of the Supreme Court have stacked up since its beginning.
Five have been women
Of the 115 justices, 110 – or 95.6% – have been men.
For almost 200 years, every single Supreme Court justice was male. But Ronald Reagan pledged as a presidential candidate that he’d put a woman on the court, and during his first year in office in 1981 he kept that promise by appointing Sandra Day O’Connor.
Before that, presidents had appointed women to lower courts, but no one gave serious thought publicly to putting one on the Supreme Court. President Harry Truman considered nominating a woman, but the justices at the time feared a woman’s presence on the court “would inhibit their conference deliberations.”
Bill Clinton made the second female appointment by nominating Ginsburg in 1993.
Inside the life of a Supreme Court Justice
Barack Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor in 2009, followed by Elena Kagan a year later. Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett in 2020 after Ginsburg’s death.
Sotomayor, Kagan and Barrett remain on the current court.
Three have been people of color
Only two African American justices, Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, have served on the court so far.
The first appointment – when Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Marshall – wasn’t until 1967. When Johnson announced the nomination, he said he thought it was the right thing to do and the right time to do it.
Thomas’s appointment happened decades later, in 1991 under George H. W. Bush (the first Bush).
Sotomayor, one of the five female justices, is also the first and only Hispanic justice in history. (Some say Justice Benjamin Cardozo, who was Portuguese, was the first Hispanic member, but he doesn’t qualify under current US census standards.)
No justices so far have identified as Asian, Native American or Pacific Islander.
7 percent have been Jewish
We’ve never had a Jewish president, but eight Jewish justices have sat on the bench, including Ginsburg and current justices Kagan and Stephen Breyer.
At its founding, the court was made up of almost entirely Protestant members, and a majority of the 114 justices throughout history have been Protestants.
Today’s court is more diverse when it comes to religion.
Most of the US population isn’t Catholic or Jewish. Of those who are religious in the US, about 23% identify with one of these sets of beliefs, according to the Pew Research Center.
There has never been a Muslim justice on the Supreme Court.
None have identified as anything other than heterosexual
No past or present justices have publicly identified themselves as anything other than straight.
There have been speculations surrounding a few former justices who were lifelong bachelors, but there’s no evidence any of them were gay.
Why having a diverse court matters
The Supreme Court has ruled on a diverse set of topics and sees a wide array of cases.
It’s laid out decisions that affect many segments of the nation’s population, like whether schools should be segregated, whether women can get abortions and if public accommodations can refuse services based on religious beliefs.
Sometimes the court hears cases that none of its members can directly relate to. Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, was decided by nine justices, none of whom identified as gay.
In 2016, Sotomayor said the court could use more diversity.
“A different perspective can permit you to more fully understand the arguments that are before you and help you articulate your position in a way that everyone will understand,” she said.