Rosanna Arquette was thinking out loud when she wrote on Twitter: “I wonder how many Supreme Court judges are members of the kkk.”
The actress provided no additional context for the question, so it’s impossible to say what prompted her musing. Regardless, here is the answer: zero. There are zero members of the Supreme Court who are members of the Ku Klux Klan.
But there’s more to the story, and it involves a forgotten piece of shameful history.
Supreme Court nominees are extensively vetted during the nomination process. If any of the nine sitting justices were members of the KKK, it surely would be public knowledge. (During Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s 2018 nomination hearing, opposition researchers even dug up his high school yearbooks.)
Here’s where things get interesting: a former member of the KKK did, in fact, later serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. That justice was Hugo Black, a lawyer and progressive Democrat senator from Alabama who was nominated to serve on the nation’s highest court by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Black joined the Klan in 1923 when he was a lawyer and then resigned about two years later, in 1925, before he ran as a Democrat to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate. In 1937, Black was appointed by FDR to serve on the Supreme Court, where Black was known as a defender of civil rights.
The story of Black’s past membership with the racist, anti-black, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish organization was revealed in the national news only after Black was already confirmed to the lifetime appointment. FDR claimed he had no knowledge of Black’s past involvement with the Klan (but there is evidence that says otherwise) and the president said he would not have appointed him if he did. Black, however, said that his past affiliation was already public knowledge during his first campaign for the U.S. Senate, and that he had already disavowed the Klan.
In a later interview, Black downplayed his membership by referring to the organization as a “fraternal organization” and said that he joined because a lot of other lawyers were members. He also speculated that his past affiliation was dredged up to attack him because of his support for the New Deal and his alliance with the liberal president.
Black resigned from the Supreme Court in 1971 and died just one week later.
So, the answer to Rosanna Arquette’s question is this: there are zero members of the Supreme Court who are in the KKK. However, a Democrat senator who was a once a member of the KKK served on the U.S. Supreme Court for 34 years, after he was nominated for the position by Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Arquette has 155 acting credits listed on her IMDB page, mostly for minor roles. Among them: Sophie in “The Whole Nine Yards” and Jody in Pulp Fiction.
UNDERRATED MOVIE RECOMMENDATION: The “Whole Nine Yards” is a 2000 dramedy about a notorious mob hitman-turned-informant (played by Bruce Willis) who moves in next door to an unhappily married dentist (played by Matthew Perry).