Judge Abdus-Salaam’s body was found floating, fully clothed, in New York’s Hudson River. She was the first African-American to serve on New York state’s highest court. Her body did not show signs of forced trauma and the investigation team is evaluating whether her death was a suicide.

She was last heard from on Tuesday morning, when she had called in saying that she would not come into work that day.

The 65-year-old judge had recently told her family and doctor that she was suffering from stress. Her mother had committed suicide on Easter in 2012. Two years later, at around the same time in the year, her brother shot himself.

The Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, said that “to the extent that the challenges and the stresses in her life contributed to this, it’s a reminder that even the most accomplished people still deal with extraordinary challenges inward, and we don’t get to see that”.

Here are some things to know about this pioneer: 

Abdus-Salaam was born in Washington to working class parents. She had six siblings and they all went to public schools.

She began her career at the East Brooklyn Legal Services.

Salaam has been a judge on New York State’s High Court since 2013.

She was known as a liberal, siding with immigrants, the port, and people with mental issues.

She often spoke about issues regarding women of colour.

She was crucial in expanding the definition of what it means to be a parent. She wrote that non-biological parents in a same sex couple could seek custody and visitation rights after a breakup. They had not been allowed to do so previously.

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