The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund recently announced Janai Nelson would take over the role of president in place of Sherrilyn Ifill, continuing to trailblaze a path for Black women in leadership.
Since 1940, the Legal Defense and Educational Fund has been working to achieve racial justice, equality and an inclusive society. Founded by Thurgood Marshall, the fund has been the legal arm of the Civil Rights Movement.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson said the Legal Defense Fund is in great hands with Nelson as she has been a member of the team for many years.
“A dear friend and colleague, Sherrilyn will be deeply missed at the helm of the NAACP LDF,” Johnson said. “But, I am confident that our comrade of nearly a decade, Janai Nelson, is the best candidate to carry the torch and continue fighting for our rights in the courts and beyond.”
Nelson has been a representative of the Legal Defense and Education Fund for the past eight years and previously served as the Associate Director-Counsel for the fund.
In that time, Nelson has worked with the President and Director-Counsel to determine and execute LDF’s strategic vision and oversee the operation of its programs according to the fund’s website.
Ramatou Soumare, IU senior and president of the IU NAACP, said she continues to gain inspiration from Black women like Ifill and Nelson.
“Black women are consistently at the forefront of the amazing work being done by organizations such as the NAACP, therefore, I am not surprised that the former and current directors of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund are both Black women,” Soumare said. “Learning about Janai Nelson taking over Sherrilyn Ifill's position as director of the LDF gives me assurance that the organization is in great hands and will continue to do great work in the legal fight against racial injustices.”
Nelson said this role is a significant responsibility as fighting against injustice within this country has never been a simple task. She recognizes how the country needs civil rights leaders now more than ever, and there is still a long road ahead to ensuring justice and liberty for all.
The work the NAACP does, especially within the Legal Defense Fund, requires great attention and recognition. Most people are not able to do the behind the scenes work to make a positive difference in this area. This work can be mentally challenging and morally devastating.
“Those of us who are in this work and understand the long game and know that change is very, very difficult to achieve in one fell swoop also know that some transformative change can happen in a flash,” Nelson said.
Like many other Black leaders, Nelson has a significant road ahead of her, but her leadership and experience has proven she has all that it takes to leave a positive impact on the NAACP and the Black community as a whole.