NAACP elects new president
Benjamin T. Jealous, 35, youngest to take helm
Benjamin T. Jealous, 35, has been elected the president and chief executive officer of the National Associations for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
The 35-year-old human rights activist is a graduate of Columbia University and a Rhodes scholar. Jealous is the youngest leader in the 99-year history of the NAACP.
Jealous grew up in Pacific Grove, California, but spent summers at his grandparent’s home in Baltimore, where his family was active in the Baltimore NAACP. Jealous’ mother, who is black, was among the first students to desegregate Western High School in Baltimore in 1955. His father, who is white, took part in sit-ins to desegregate Baltimore lunch counters.
“I’m excited to take the helm of the NAACP,” he said. “I believe in the urgent need for strong civil rights institutions and strong black institutions in general.”
Some of the members of the NAACP’s 64-member board opposed the appointment of Jealous, feeling that they were shut out of the election process. But after an eight-hour closed door meeting that ended close to 3 a.m., Jealous received the appointment.
Jealous received key support from NAACP board Chairman Julian Bond.
The newly-appointed president said that his family has supported the NAACP for five generations.
In the past several years, the NAACP has struggled to increase membership, and has been dogged by critics who wonder if the civil rights group is still relevant.
Jealous said he would make financial stability a priority and that he would focus on supporting the NAACP’s nearly 2,000 local units. He also stressed that he planned to use technology to “pull people into this movement.”
“I’ve spent my entire life in this movement,” he said in an interview. “I was raised to believe that there is no greater calling than to serve your people in the cause of justice. That is how I have spent my life. I have no higher ambitions.”
Jealous spent three years as director of Amnesty International USA’s Domestic Human Rights Program and recently was president of the San Francisco-based Rosenberg Foundation, which supports social justice organizations. Previous to that position, Jealous spent three years as an executive director of the National Newspaper Publisher’s Association, an organization of 200 black-owned community newspapers.
In a day and age when Barack Obama can be elected president of a country that a mere 200 years ago held people who looked like him in physical bondage; where laws that prevented Whites and Blacks from going to school and socializing together 50 years ago have been struck down, the relevance of an organization like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is sometimes questioned.
But newly appointed NAACP President and Chief Executive Officer, Benjamin T. Jealous, has the answer to that question.