|Purpose||LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans.|
|Headquarters||40 Rector Street, 5th floor New York City, New York, 10006 U.S.|
President and Director-Counsel
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (NAACP LDF or LDF) is a leading United States civil rights organization and law firm based in New York City.
LDF is wholly independent and separate from the NAACP.Although LDF can trace its origins to the legal department of the NAACP created by Charles Hamilton Houston in the 1930s, Thurgood Marshall founded LDF as a separate legal entity in 1940 and LDF became totally independent from the NAACP in 1957.
Sherrilyn Ifill currently serves as the seventh President and Director-Counsel, since 2013.Previous Director-Counsels include John Payton (2008–2012), Ted Shaw (2004–2008), Elaine Jones (1993–2004), Julius Levonne Chambers (1984–1993), Jack Greenberg (1961–1984), and founder Thurgood Marshall (1940–1961).
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While primarily focused on the civil rights of African Americans in the U.S., LDF states it has "been instrumental in the formation of similar organizations that have replicated its organizational model in order to promote equality for Asian-Americans, Latinos, and women in the United States." LDF has also been involved in "the campaign for human rights throughout the world, including in South Africa, Canada, Brazil, and elsewhere."
LDF's national office is in Manhattan, with regional offices in Washington, D.C. LDF has nearly two dozen staff lawyers and hundreds of cooperating attorneys across the nation.
The board of directors of the NAACP created the Legal Defense Fund in 1940 specifically for tax purposes.In 1957, LDF was completely separated from the NAACP and given its own independent board and staff. Although LDF was originally meant to operate in accordance with NAACP policy, after 1961, serious disputes emerged between the two organizations. These disputes ultimately led the NAACP to create its own internal legal department while LDF continued to operate and score significant legal victories as an independent organization.
At times, this separation has created considerable confusion in the eyes and minds of the public.In the 1980s, the NAACP unsuccessfully sued LDF for trademark infringement. In its ruling rejecting the NAACP’s lawsuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit recognized that the "universal esteem in which the [NAACP] initials are held is due in significant measure to [LDF's] distinguished record as a civil rights litigator" and that the NAACP has "benefitted from the added luster given to the NAACP initials by the LDF's litigation successes."
Probably the most famous case in the history of LDF was Brown v. Board of Education , the landmark case in 1954 in which the United States Supreme Court explicitly outlawed de jure racial segregation of public education facilities. During the civil rights protests of the 1960s, LDF represented "the legal arm of the civil rights movement" and provided counsel for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., among others.
A number of prominent attorneys have been affiliated with LDF over the years, including Barack Obama who was an LDF cooperating attorney.The following, non-exhaustive list of LDF alumni demonstrates the breadth of positions these attorneys have held or currently hold in public service, the government, academia, the private sector, and other areas.
Thurgood Marshall was an American lawyer and civil rights activist who served as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from October 1967 until October 1991. Marshall was the first African-American Supreme Court Justice in the history of the United States. Prior to his judicial service, he successfully argued several cases before the Supreme Court, including Brown v. Board of Education.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that U.S. state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools are otherwise equal in quality. Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Court's unanimous (9–0) decision stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal", and therefore violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, the decision's 14 pages did not spell out any sort of method for ending racial segregation in schools, and the Court's second decision in Brown II only ordered states to desegregate "with all deliberate speed".
Charles Hamilton Houston was a prominent African-American lawyer, Dean of Howard University Law School, and NAACP first special counsel, or Litigation Director. A graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Law School, Houston played a significant role in dismantling Jim Crow laws, especially attacking segregation in schools and racial housing covenants. He earned the title "The Man Who Killed Jim Crow".
Constance Baker Motley, was a key strategist of the civil rights movement, lawyer, judge, state senator, and Borough President of Manhattan, New York City. She obtained a role with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund before entering law school as a staff attorney and continued her work with the organization for more than twenty years. She argued 12 landmark civil rights cases in front of the Supreme Court, winning nine. She was a law clerk to Thurgood Marshall, aiding him in the case Brown v. Board of Education. Baker Motley was also the first African-American woman appointed to the federal judiciary, serving as a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Judge Motley died on September 28, 2005 in New York City of congestive heart failure.
Jack Greenberg was an American attorney and legal scholar. He was the Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund from 1961 to 1984, succeeding Thurgood Marshall.
Robert Lee Carter was an American lawyer, civil rights activist and a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Fred David Gray is a civil rights attorney, preacher and activist who practices law in Alabama. He litigated several major civil rights cases in Alabama, including some, such as Browder v. Gayle, that reached the United States Supreme Court for rulings. He served as the President of the National Bar Association in 1985, and in 2001 was elected as the first African-American President of the Alabama State Bar.
Nathaniel Raphael Jones was an American attorney, judge, and law professor. As general counsel of the NAACP, Jones fought to end school segregation, including in the northern United States. From 1979 until 1995, he served as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit before assuming senior status, and in 2002 retired to resume a private legal practice.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) is a national non-profit civil rights organization formed in 1968 to protect the rights of Latinos in the United States. Founded in San Antonio, Texas, it is currently headquartered in Los Angeles, California and maintains regional offices in Sacramento, San Antonio, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
Spottswood William Robinson III was an American educator, civil rights attorney, and a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit after previously serving as a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Alexander Pierre "A. P." Tureaud, Sr. was an African-American attorney who headed the legal team for the New Orleans chapter of the NAACP during the Civil Rights Movement. With the assistance of Thurgood Marshall and Robert Carter from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, A. P. Tureaud filed the lawsuit that successfully ended the system of Jim Crow segregation in New Orleans. That case paved the way for integrating the first two elementary schools in the Deep South.
Julius LeVonne Chambers was an American lawyer, civil rights leader and educator.
Elaine R. Jones is an American civil rights attorney and activist. She joined the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) in 1970 and in 1993 became the organization's first female director-counsel and president.
Bill Lann Lee is an American civil rights attorney who served as Assistant United States Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division for the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division under President Bill Clinton.
John A. Payton was an African-American civil rights attorney. In 2008, he was appointed the sixth president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund serving in that post until his death. Prior to this, he was a partner at the law firm WilmerHale for 20 years.
U. W. Clemon is an Alabama attorney in private practice and a former United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. He was among the first ten African-American lawyers admitted to the Alabama bar. In 1974 he was one of the first two African Americans elected to the Alabama Senate since Reconstruction.
NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415 (1963), is a 6-to-3 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States which held that the reservation of jurisdiction by a federal district court did not bar the U.S. Supreme Court from reviewing a state court's ruling, and also overturned certain laws enacted by the state of Virginia in 1956 as part of the Stanley Plan and massive resistance, as violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The statutes here stricken down by the Supreme Court had expanded the definitions of the traditional common law crimes of champerty and maintenance, as well as barratry, and had been targeted at the NAACP and its civil rights litigation.
This is a timeline of the 1947 to 1968 civil rights movement in the United States, a nonviolent mid-20th century freedom movement to gain legal equality and the enforcement of constitutional rights for People of Color. The goals of the movement included securing equal protection under the law, ending legally established racial discrimination, and gaining equal access to public facilities, education reform, fair housing, and the ability to vote.
Sherrilyn Ifill is an American lawyer. She is a law professor and president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. She is the Legal Defense Fund's seventh president since Thurgood Marshall founded the organization in 1940. Ifill is also a nationally recognized expert on voting rights and judicial selection.
Melvyn Rosenman Leventhal is an American attorney known primarily for his work as a community organizer and lawyer in the 1960s–70s Civil Rights Movement, and for being the husband of author Alice Walker for ten years; they were the first legally married interracial couple in Mississippi history.