Benjamin Jealous

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Benjamin Jealous
BenJealous.jpg
17th President of the NAACP
In office
September 1, 2008 – November 1, 2013
Preceded by Bruce S. Gordon
Succeeded by Lorraine C. Miller
Personal details
Born Benjamin Todd Jealous
(1973-01-18) January 18, 1973 (age 41)
Pacific Grove, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Spouse(s) Lia Epperson
Alma mater Columbia University (A.B.)
Oxford University (M.A.)
Religion Episcopalian

Overview[edit]

Benjamin Todd Jealous (born January 18, 1973) is an American political and civic leader and the former president and chief executive officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He is currently a partner at Kapor Capital.

Jealous served as the youngest-ever national leader of the NAACP, and earned accolades for reviving the organization by Forbes Magazine, Time Magazine, The Nonprofit Times, and others. In 2013, Jealous was named a Young Global Leader by the Davos World Economic Forum. The Washington Post in 2013 described him as “one of the nation’s most prominent civil rights leaders.”

In 2014 Jealous became a Senior Partner at Kapor Capital, an Oakland-based firm that leverages the tech sector to create progressive social change. He also joined the Center for American Progress as a Senior Fellow.

Childhood and Education[edit]

Jealous was born in Pacific Grove, California and grew up in Monterey Peninsula, California. He holds a B.A. in political science from Columbia University and a master's degree in comparative social research from the Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. Jealous went to York School in Monterey for high school.

Early activism[edit]

At Columbia University, Jealous began working as an organizer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. As a student, he protested the university’s plan to turn the site of Malcolm X's assassination into a research facility and was suspended. During his suspension, Jealous traveled the South. It was during this time, Mississippi's three black colleges were slated to be closed and Jealous organized with the local NAACP chapter to keep them open and fully funded. While in Mississippi, he began working as a reporter for Jackson Advocate, Mississippi's oldest historically black newspaper, under the tutelage publisher Charles Tisdale where he eventually became its managing editor. His reporting was credited with exposing corruption amongst high-ranking officials at the state prison in Parchman, and helping to acquit a small farmer who had been wrongfully accused of arson. Jealous returned to Columbia in 1997 where he applied for and was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship. Upon the completion of the Rhodes Scholarship, Jealous served as Executive Director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a federation of more than 200 black community newspapers. During his time there he relocated the organization's editorial office to Howard University and set up NNPA.org, an online syndicated news service that shares content with all of the organization's member papers. After the NNPA, he served as director of the US Human Rights Program at Amnesty International. While there, he focused on issues such as federal legislation against prison rape, racial profiling, and exposing children a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. He is the lead author of the 2004 report Threat and Humiliation: Racial Profiling, Domestic Security, and Human Rights in the United States. Jealous then accepted a position as President of the Rosenberg Foundation, a private independent nonprofit venture capital organization.

NAACP[edit]

Jealous served as President and CEO of the NAACP for four years before retiring. He was elected in 2008, at age 35 the youngest person to serve in that position. In his time at the organization, Jealous opened national programs on criminal justice, health, environmental justice and voting rights, expanded existing programs and opened the NAACP Financial Freedom Center to provide financial education and banking resources. The NAACP had a number of notable achievements during his tenure, including: registering 374,553 voters and mobilizing 1.2 million new and unlikely voters to turn out at the polls for the 2012 presidential election; leading the charge for Connecticut and Maryland to abolish the death penalty; endorsing marriage equality; and fighting laws the NAACP claims were intended for voter suppression in states across the country. During Jealous’ tenure, the NAACP's online activists increased from 175,000 to more than 675,000; its donors have increased from 16,000 individuals per year to more than 132,000; and the number of total NAACP activists topped one million.

Coalition Building[edit]

Jealous led the NAACP to work closely with other civil rights, labor and environmental groups. In 2010 the NAACP was one of the conveners of the One Nation Working Together Rally in 2010, which he referred to as “an antidote" to the Tea Party. The following year the NAACP led “several thousand protesters” from different groups to march down New York City’s Fifth Avenue in protest of stop-and-frisk policing. In 2012 Jealous formed The Democracy Initiative along with other progressive leaders to build a national campaign around three goals: getting big money out of politics, voting rights and reforming broken Senate rules. Finally, in 2013 Jealous gave the keynote address at the A10 Rally for Citizenship, a major rally for immigration reform at the US Capitol. Jealous also led the NAACP to work with unlikely allies. In 2011 he spoke at the National Press Club with conservatives including Grover Norquist, former American Conservative Union President David Keene, and a representative of Newt Gingrich, all of whom endorsed the NAACP’s report on over incarceration, “Misplaced Priorities: Over Incarcerate, Under Educate.” In Texas later that year, the NAACP worked with leaders of the Tea Party to pass a dozen criminal justice reform measures, leading to the first scheduled prison closure in state history. Similarly, in 2013, the NAACP worked closely with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell to pass bipartisan voting rights reform that gave former offenders the chance to vote after they served the terms of their sentence. Upon announcing his resignation, Jealous received accolades from advocacy leaders for his coalition-building efforts. Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin claimed that “He believes in his heart that none of us is equal until all of us are equal,” while Sierra Club President Michael Brune praised him for “courageously [building] alliances that have strengthened the organization’s cause and bolstered all of us in the struggle to secure a better future for every American.”

Awards and Honors[edit]

Jealous has earned accolades for his effective management of the NAACP, with a focus on his operational prowess and the dramatic increases in the Association’s revenues. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, he was

“credited with infusing the organization, once seen as graying and vulnerable, with energy, modernity… On his watch over the past five years, the group doubled its budget and national staff, thanks to sometimes explosive growth in fundraising. It shook off years of scandal and torpor, racked up victories in city halls and statehouses, and registered hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, as Mr. Jealous, 40, this week announces his resignation… he leaves a road map for reinvigorating nonprofit advocacy.”

Furthermore, according to The Baltimore Sun, Jealous “brought energy, vision and focus to an organization in need of all three and showed a new generation that the pursuit of social justice remains a vital cause in these and any times.”

Jealous has earned the following awards and honors for his activism: • In March 2009, Jealous received the John Jay Award for distinguished professional achievement from Columbia College and spoke as the Class Day speaker at Columbia University. • On October 13, 2010, Jealous was named to Time Magazine’s “40 Under 40” rising stars of American politics • In 2010 and 2011, Jealous was named to the Nonprofit Times “Power & Influence Top 50” list • On October 11, 2012, Jealous was named to Fortune Magazine’s “40 Under 40” list. • On September 19, 2012, Jealous was ranked #3 on The 2012 Root Top 100 list (new citation) • In December 2012, Jealous was awarded the 2012 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, which is given annually to an individual who has challenged the status quo through distinctive, courageous, imaginative, and socially responsible work of significance. • In March 2013, Jealous was named a Young Global Leader by the Davos World Economic Forum. • On September 25, 2013, Jealous was ranked #1 on The 2013 Root Top 100 list • On December 28, 2013, Jealous was named Marylander of The Year by the Baltimore Sun.

Additionally, Jealous is a 2013 Prime Mover Fellow, part of a program for emerging and established social movement leaders working at the national level.

Personal Life and Family[edit]

Jealous lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with his two children. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and is affiliated with the Washington DC Alumni Chapter. His mother, Ann Todd Jealous, who is black, is a retired psychotherapist from Baltimore, Maryland who participated in Western High School's desegregation. She is also the author, with Caroline Haskell, of Combined Destinies: Whites Sharing Grief about Racism, released in April 2013. His father, Fred Jealous, who is white, from New England, is the Founder and President of the Breakthrough Men's Community and participated in Baltimore sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters. As a multiracial couple, it was illegal for them to get married in Maryland until 1967 due to anti-miscegenation laws; therefore, they had to marry in Washington, DC before returning to Baltimore.

References[edit]

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