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Ben Jealous

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Ben Jealous
Jealous in 2017
Executive director of the NAACP
In office
September 1, 2008 – November 1, 2013
Preceded byDennis Courtland Hayes (acting)
Succeeded byLorraine Miller (acting)
Personal details
Benjamin Todd Jealous

(1973-01-18) January 18, 1973 (age 51)
Pacific Grove, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
(m. 2002; div. 2015)
RelativesThomas Jefferson[3]
Peter G. Morgan[3]
Edward David Bland[3]
EducationColumbia University (BA)
St Antony's College, Oxford (MSc)

Benjamin Todd Jealous (born January 18, 1973) is an American civil rights leader, environmentalist and executive director of the Sierra Club. He served as the president and chief executive officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 2008 to 2013. When he was selected to head the NAACP at age 35, he became the organization's youngest-ever national leader.[4]

Jealous ran for governor of Maryland in the 2018 election.[5] He ran as a Democrat, and won the party's nomination in the June 2018 primary, defeating Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker and seven other candidates.[6] However, he lost in the general election to the incumbent governor, Republican Larry Hogan.[7]

Jealous is a partner at Kapor Capital, board chairman of the Southern Elections Fund[8] and one of the John L. Weinberg/Goldman Sachs Visiting Professors at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School.[9] In 2013, Jealous was named a Young Global Leader by the Davos World Economic Forum.

Jealous was selected as president of People for the American Way, and its associated foundation, on June 2, 2020, and assumed the position on June 15.[10] On November 14, 2022, Jealous was named the executive director of the Sierra Club, the first person of color to hold the position, effective January 23, 2023.[11][12] Jealous' 2023 book, Never Forget Our People Were Always Free: A Parable of American Healing[13][14] was released on January 10, 2023.[15]

Early life and education


Jealous was born in 1973 in Pacific Grove, California, and grew up on the Monterey Peninsula. His mother, Ann Jealous (née Todd), is biracial. She worked as a psychotherapist and had grown up in Baltimore. She had participated there in the desegregation of Western High School. She is the author, with Caroline Haskell, of Combined Destinies: Whites Sharing Grief about Racism (2013). His father, Fred Jealous, who is white, is descended from settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, related to businessman Joseph B. Sargent, and directly in line to inherit the fortune from the Sargent and Co business. He founded the Breakthrough Men's Community and participated in Baltimore sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters.[16] Jealous's parents met in Baltimore in 1966. At the time, they did not openly date each other in public; when they went to the movies, they took separate paths to adjacent seats to hide their relationship.[17] As an interracial couple, they were prohibited by state law from marrying in Maryland before 1967. They married in Washington, D.C., and returned to live in Baltimore for a time before moving to California in the early-1970s.[18] As a child, Jealous was sent to Baltimore to spend his summers with his maternal grandparents, who lived in the Ashburton neighborhood. Jealous graduated from York School in Monterey, California in 1990.[19]

Jealous's father was best friends with comedian Dave Chappelle's father, William David Chappelle III; as a result, Jealous has been friends with Dave Chappelle since childhood, and the two are god-brothers.[20]

Jealous earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Columbia University. A Rhodes Scholar, he later earned a Master of Science in comparative social research from St Antony's College, Oxford.



Early activism


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 Audubon Ballroom (the site of Malcolm X's assassination) into a research facility and was suspended. During his suspension, Jealous traveled through the South. During this time Mississippi's three black colleges were slated to be closed because of financial difficulties. Jealous organized with the local NAACP chapter to keep them fully funded and maintain their operations.

While in Mississippi, Jealous began working as a reporter for Jackson Advocate, Mississippi's oldest historically black newspaper, under the tutelage of publisher Charles Tisdale. He eventually became its managing editor. His reporting was credited with exposing corruption among high-ranking officials at the state prison in Parchman. In addition, he helped acquit a small farmer who had been wrongfully accused of arson. Jealous returned to Columbia in 1997, where he applied for and was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship.[21]

After completing his degree at Oxford and returning to the US, Jealous worked as executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a federation of more than 200 black community newspapers. During his term, he relocated the organization's editorial office to Howard University in Washington, D.C. He set up an online syndicated news service that shared content with all of the organization's member papers.[citation needed]

After the NNPA, he served as director of the US Human Rights Program at Amnesty International. He focused on issues such as promoting federal legislation against prison rape, racial profiling, and the sentencing of persons to life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) who are convicted for acts committed as children. (In 2012, the US Supreme Court ruled that such sentencing was unconstitutional, and ordered its ruling to be applied to people already in prison.) Jealous is the lead author of the 2004 report "Threat and Humiliation: Racial Profiling, Domestic Security, and Human Rights in the United States."[22]

Jealous was President of the Rosenberg Foundation, a private foundation located in San Francisco, California from 2005 to 2008.


Jealous in 2009

Jealous was elected in 2008 as president and CEO of the NAACP; at age 35, he was the youngest person to serve in that position. He served until late 2013. During his term, Jealous initiated 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.[23]

During his tenure, the NAACP helped register 374,553 voters and mobilize 1.2 million new voters to turn out at the polls for the 2012 presidential election. It supported abolition of the death penalty in Connecticut and Maryland, endorsed same-sex marriage, and fought laws it believed were intended for voter suppression in states across the country.

During Jealous's tenure, the number of NAACP's online activists increased from 175,000 to more than 675,000; its donors increased from 16,000 individuals to more than 132,000; and the number of total NAACP activists was 1.7 million.[24][25]

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, which Jealous referred to as "an antidote" to the Tea Party.[26] In June 2012, the NAACP led several thousand protesters from different groups to march down New York City's Fifth Avenue in protest of the NYPD's policy of stop-and-frisk policing.[27] 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, supporting voting rights, and reforming broken Senate rules.[28] Finally, in 2013 Jealous gave the keynote address at the A10 Rally for Citizenship, a major rally for immigration reform at the US Capitol.[29]

Jealous behind President Barack Obama as he signs the Educational Excellence for African Americans executive order, 2012

Jealous broadened the NAACP's alliances in 2011 at the National Press Club when a conservative coalition of criminal justice reform advocates endorsed an NAACP report authored by Jealous. In the report, Jealous highlights the adverse effects of over-incarceration of youth on society and the case for increasing public funding for education.[30] 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.[31] 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.[32]

Upon announcing his resignation in 2013, Jealous was praised by activists for his coalition-building efforts.[33][34]

Jealous was noted for reviving and building the resources of the NAACP. 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.[35]

2018 Maryland gubernatorial election campaign

Jealous campaigning in September 2018

On May 31, 2017, Jealous announced his candidacy for governor of Maryland in the 2018 election, then held by Larry Hogan (R).[36] His running mate was Susan Turnbull.

Many labor and progressive groups issued early endorsements of Jealous, including the American Postal Workers Union (APWU-Maryland), Communications Workers of America (CWA), National Nurses United, the Maryland State Education Association, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), UNITE-HERE, Democracy for America, Friends of the Earth Action, the Maryland Working Families Party, Our Revolution and Progressive Maryland.

Jealous received endorsements from Senators Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris, as well as longtime friend, comedian Dave Chappelle.[37]

The Democratic primary was held on June 26, 2018. Despite trailing in polling in the months prior to the primary, Jealous and Turnbull won the primary with 40% of the vote in a nine-candidate field, 10% ahead of the second place duo.[38]

Jealous ran on a platform that included free college tuition, legalized marijuana, universal healthcare, and a $15 minimum wage for Marylanders.[39][40] His views were described by an analyst for Circa News as democratic socialist.[41] However, Jealous disputed this characterization. On August 8, 2018, when questioned by a reporter about whether he considered himself a socialist, Jealous referred to himself as a "venture capitalist."[42] When the reporter asked a second time whether he was a socialist, he responded, "Are you fucking kidding me?"[43]

In October 2018, Jealous confirmed to Washington Jewish Week that he would "vow to defend" the Executive Order by Hogan related to banning companies from working with the state who boycott the Israeli Occupation and/or settlements.[44] This order is very similar to one the ACLU successfully challenged into suspension in Arizona as unconstitutional.[45] Jealous's campaign added that if the ACLU was successful in suspending the Maryland order, he would "bring leaders in the Jewish community and the Maryland-Israel Development Center together ...to figure out if there's a constitutional way to discourage the BDS movement in Maryland."[44]

The general election was held on November 6, 2018, and Jealous lost the election to the incumbent governor, Hogan by a wide margin of 11.9%.[7]



In 2014 Jealous became a senior partner at Kapor Capital. He also joined the Center for American Progress as a senior fellow.[46][47]

Political endorsements


Jealous is a progressive Democrat. He endorsed Bernie Sanders in his 2016 campaign for U.S. president,[48][49] then supported Hillary Clinton after she was nominated as a candidate by the Democratic Party.[50]

Personal life


Jealous was married to Lia Epperson, an NAACP lawyer and law professor at American University Washington College of Law in July 2002.[1] Epperson is the sister of CNBC correspondent Sharon Epperson.[51] Jealous and Epperson have two children.[52] The couple divorced in 2015.[2] Jealous has been a vegetarian since 1978.[53] He is a resident of Alameda, California.[54]

Awards and honors


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 in 2010 spoke as the Class Day speaker at Columbia University.[55]
  • In 2010, Jealous was named to Time magazine's "40 Under 40" rising stars of American politics.[56]
  • In 2010 and 2011, Jealous was named to the Nonprofit Times "Power & Influence Top 50" list.[57]
  • In 2012 Jealous was named to Fortune magazine's "40 Under 40" list.[58]
  • Jealous was ranked No. 3 on the 2012 Root Top 100 list.[59]
  • 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.[60]
  • In March 2013, Jealous was named a Young Global Leader by the Davos World Economic Forum.[61]
  • Jealous was ranked No. 1 on The 2013 Root Top 100 list.[62]
  • In December 2013 Jealous was named Marylander of The Year by the Baltimore Sun.[63]

See also



  1. ^ a b "Weddings:Lia Epperson, Ben Jealous". The New York Times. July 28, 2002. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Wiggins, Ovetta (June 6, 2018). "Ben Jealous: Sanders-style Democrat gains traction in Clinton-loving Md". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Gates, Henry Louis Jr. (2016). "Ben Jealous (b. 1973)". Finding Your Roots, Season 2: The Official Companion to the PBS Series. UNC Press Books. pp. 149–164. ISBN 9781469626192.
  4. ^ Roland, Martin. "35-Year-Old Chosen to Lead the NAACP". CNN. Archived from the original on March 26, 2009. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  5. ^ Dresser, Michael. "Ex-NAACP chief Ben Jealous announces candidacy for Maryland governor". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on May 30, 2017. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  6. ^ Almukhtar, Sarah; Bloch, Matthew; Lee, Jasmine C. (June 26, 2018). "Maryland Primary Election Results". The New York Times. Retrieved June 26, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Erin Cox; Ovetta Wiggins; Rachel Chason (November 7, 2018). "Republican Gov. Larry Hogan wins a second term in deep-blue Maryland". The Washington Post.
  8. ^ Board. southernelectionsfund.org
  9. ^ "Former President and CEO of NAACP to Join the Woodrow Wilson School as Visiting Professor and Lecturer". Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Retrieved May 23, 2016.
  10. ^ "Ben Jealous Selected as President of People for the American Way and People for the American Way Foundation".
  11. ^ "Sierra Club Makes Historic Selection For Its Next Executive Director". sierraclub.org. Sierra Club. November 14, 2022. Retrieved November 14, 2022.
  12. ^ "Ben Jealous, former Maryland gubernatorial candidate and onetime NAACP president, is named executive director of Sierra Club". MSN. Retrieved November 15, 2022.
  13. ^ "Ben Jealous: "Never Forget Our People Were Always Free"". WYPR. Retrieved January 10, 2023.
  14. ^ Jealous, Benjamin Todd (January 6, 2023). "ONE NATION, INDIVISIBLE". AFRO American Newspapers. Retrieved January 10, 2023.
  15. ^ "Never Forget Our People Were Always Free". HarperCollins. Retrieved January 10, 2023.
  16. ^ Reddy, Sumanthi (September 28, 2008). "Young Man Moves Up". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  17. ^ Johnson, Rich (June 12, 2017). "'All of a sudden, we were human beings': Reflections on 50 years of Loving vs. Virginia". WTOP. Retrieved September 9, 2018.
  18. ^ Hond, Paul. "Justice's Son". No. Spring 2013. Columbia University Magazine. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  19. ^ "York School graduate Benjamin Jealous is new president of NAACP". Monterey Herald. May 18, 2008. Retrieved June 14, 2020.
  20. ^ Murphy, Tim (January 2018). "The most important election of 2018 might be happening in Maryland". Mother Jones. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  21. ^ Serwer, Adam (February 16, 2009). "The Other Black President". The American Prospect. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  22. ^ Jealous, Benjamin. "Threat and Humiliation: Racial Profiling, Domestic Security, and Human Rights in the United States" (PDF). Amnesty USA. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  23. ^ "NAACP Opens Financial Center to Provide Financial Education and Freedom" (Press release). NAACP. April 4, 2011. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  24. ^ Love, David (September 9, 2013). "What Will NAACP President Ben Jealous' Legacy Be?". The Grio. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  25. ^ "Benjamin Jealous Leaves the NAACP a Far Stronger Place". The Chronicle of Philanthropy. September 8, 2013. Retrieved October 19, 2015.
  26. ^ Bacon, John (October 2, 2010). ""One Nation" Rally Offers "Antidote" to Tea Party". USA Today. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  27. ^ "Thousands Hold Silent March to Mayor Bloomberg's Home in Protest of NYPD's 'Stop-and-Frisk'". Democracy Now. June 18, 2012. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  28. ^ Leland, John (June 17, 2012). "Thousands March Silently to Protest Stop-and-Frisk Policies". The New York Times. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  29. ^ Hesson, Ted. "Why the NAACP Gets Top Billing at an Immigration Rally". fusion.net. Fusion Beta. Archived from the original on August 19, 2014. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  30. ^ "Misplaced Priorities: Over Incarcerate, Under Educate" (PDF). naacp.3cdn.net. NAACP. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 2, 2017. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  31. ^ Weigel, David (January 26, 2012). "Two Questions for Ben Jealous, President of the NAACP". Slate. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  32. ^ Richmond-Times Dispatch (May 31, 2013). "NAACP Leader, McDonnell Praise Cooperation on Rights Initiative". Richmond-Times Dispatch. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  33. ^ Wells, Carrie (September 8, 2013). "NAACP President Ben Jealous to Resign". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  34. ^ Brune, Michael. "Sierra Club Statement on NAACP's Ben Jealous". sierraclub.org. Sierra Club. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  35. ^ Anft, Michael (September 8, 2013). "NAACP Leader Departs After 5 Years". The Chronicle Of Philanthropy. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  36. ^ Dresser, Michael (June 2, 2017). "Ex-NAACP chief Ben Jealous announces candidacy for Maryland governor". Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on May 30, 2017. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  37. ^ Booker, Brakkton (June 8, 2018). "All Jokes Aside, Dave Chappelle Stumps For Democratic Maryland Governor's Candidate". NPR. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  38. ^ 2018 Primary Election Results, Maryland State Board of Elections, July 29, 2018. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  39. ^ Cook, Chase (June 19, 2018). "Ben Jealous says turnout is the key to beating Hogan in Maryland race for governor". Capital Gazette. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  40. ^ "Maryland minimum wage goes up and new laws take effect". The Baltimore Sun. Associated Press. July 1, 2018. Retrieved August 30, 2018. Ben Jealous, the Democratic candidate for governor, supports increasing the minimum wage to $15.
  41. ^ Bernstein, Leandra (July 11, 2018). "Are socialist candidates the future of the Democratic Party?". NBC News. Retrieved July 14, 2018.
  42. ^ Watson, Libby (August 8, 2018). "Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Ben Jealous: Don't Worry, I Suck". Splinter News. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  43. ^ Wood, Pamela (August 8, 2018). "Asked whether he's a socialist, Ben Jealous drops F-bomb at Baltimore County news conference". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
  44. ^ a b Foretek, Jared (October 18, 2018). "Jealous vows to defend BDS order amid controversy". Washington Jewish Week. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  45. ^ "US court suspends Arizona anti-BDS law". Middle East Monitor. October 1, 2018. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  46. ^ Sanchez, Nicole (March 4, 2014). "Ben Jealous is joining our staff!". kaporcenter.org. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  47. ^ "RELEASE: Benjamin Jealous Joins the Center for American Progress as Senior Fellow" (Press release). Center for American Progress. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  48. ^ Alcindor, Yamiche (February 4, 2016). "Bernie Sanders Gets Backing From Former N.A.A.C.P Chief and a Nevada Union". The New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  49. ^ Wagner, John. "Former NAACP leader Ben Jealous to endorse Bernie Sanders". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  50. ^ "Jill Stein vs. Ben Jealous: Should Progressives Reject Hillary Clinton & Vote Green?". Democracy Now!. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  51. ^ Kalson, Sally. "Obituary: David E. Epperson / Longtime dean at University of Pittsburgh social work school". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  52. ^ Eversley, Melanie (September 8, 2013). "NAACP chief Ben Jealous to resign, cites family reasons". USA Today. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  53. ^ "I've been a vegetarian for 43 years and counting". Twitter. February 4, 2021. Retrieved September 14, 2022.
  54. ^ Group, Angela Woodall | Bay Area News (May 19, 2008). "After tense vote, Alameda man named to lead NAACP". East Bay Times. Retrieved December 26, 2023.
  55. ^ Columbia College. "Five Alumni Presented with John Jay Awards". columbia.college.edu. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  56. ^ "40 Under 40 (Ben Jealous)". Time. October 13, 2010. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  57. ^ Clolery, Paul. "The NonProfit Time Power and Influence: Top 50- '11" (PDF). No. 2011. The NonProfit Times. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 12, 2016. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  58. ^ "40 Under 40". Fortune. October 11, 2012. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  59. ^ Salomon, Sheryl Huggins (September 19, 2012). "100 Black Influencers to Know in 2012". The Root. Archived from the original on August 19, 2014. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  60. ^ Puffin Nation. "Benjamin Jealous | 2012 Recipient". nationinstitute.org. Puffin Nation. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  61. ^ World Economic Forum. "Young Global Leaders" (PDF). No. 2013. Davos World Economic Forum. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  62. ^ "Root Top 100". No. 2013. The Root. June 7, 2013. Archived from the original on August 15, 2014. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  63. ^ Baltimore Sun (December 28, 2013). "Marylander of the Year: Ben Jealous". The Baltimore Sun. No. 2013. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Maryland
Succeeded by