Rice, the first African-American woman to serve as secretary of state, also said that Sessions has worked hard to heal the wounds in Alabama brought on by the "prejudice and injustice against the descendents of slaves". Patrick Leahy asked Sessions about his views on marijuana. "I believe the proper thing for me to do would be to recuse myself from any questions involving those kinds of investigations that involve Secretary Clinton that were raised during the campaign - or could otherwise be connected to it".
Despite Democratic opposition, however, Sessions is widely expected to win confirmation from the Republican-controlled Senate, where many of his colleagues - including moderates - have praised his integrity and dismissed any accusations of racism.
Sessions, a law-and-order conservative, would as attorney general be responsible for implementing the draconian criminal justice agenda on which Trump campaigned.
Cean James, pastor of the Grace Christian Fellowship United Church of Christ in Philadelphia said historically the attorney general, regardless of the party in office, has been the defender of marginalized communities.
In her opening statement, she said "there is so much fear in this country", particularly among African Americans, following Mr Trump's election.
"We must always remember that these crimes are being committed against real people, real victims", Sessions said.
As attorney general he will be responsible for enforcing laws against hate crimes, womens' rights to abortion, and potentially telling Mr Trump that he can not do what he chooses, if it runs against the constitution.
It has been reported that several other protesters stood silently at the back of the room holding signs and slogans towards Mr Sessions, which made reference to his views on immigration and gay rights.
Sessions was referring to reported racist remarks that ultimately sank his nomination for US district judge for the Southern District of Alabama in 1986. He says he's the same person he was, but perhaps a little wiser. He added that it shouldn't be the attorney general's job to decide which laws should be enforced.
"This country does not punish its political enemies, but this country ensures that no one is above the law", Sessions said.