LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — When Justice Kyra Harris Bolden unlocked her potential, doors started opening.

“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” she said. “I don’t know if it ever will.”

She is processing a lot, but her purpose keeps her grounded.

“I always think of myself as a public servant,” Bolden said.

Bolden is a lawmaker turned history-maker. She took an oath in January to become the first Black woman to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court since its founding in 1836.

“Quietly, behind the scenes, I have always advocated for a Black woman to be on the Michigan Supreme Court, but I did not think it was going to be me,” Bolden said.

To work, the justice carries with her an injustice that’s plagued her family for decades.

“My great-grandfather was lynched in 1939 in Arlington, Tennessee, for asking a store owner for a receipt,” Bolden said. “He was beaten and castrated and thrown into the local river, and the coroner deemed it an accidental drowning and as result, his murderers walked free.”

Bolden said her grandmother told her that story when she was an undergraduate student at Grand Valley State University. It motivated her to go to law school with the support of her former GVSU English professor, Kathleen Blumreich.

“She’s just one of the best people I’ve ever known and I think she brings a much-needed voice to the bench,” Blumreich said. “I want her to continue to fight for women, continue to fight for African American women, for the African American community.”

That fight to be seen continues but the view of her historic seat on the high court is a start.

“I truly believe that we should reflect the diversity, backgrounds, experiences and perspectives of Michigan,” Bolden said.