Benjamin Jealous

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Benjamin Jealous
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

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 was the youngest ever national leader of the organization.[1]


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.[citation needed]

His mother, Ann Todd Jealous, who identifies as black, is a retired psychotherapist from Baltimore, Maryland who participated in Western High School's desegregation.[2] She is also the author, with Caroline Haskell, of Combined Destinies: Whites Sharing Grief about Racism, released in April 2013.[2] 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.[2] As a multiracial couple, it was illegal for them to get married in Maryland until 1967; therefore, they had to marry in Washington before returning to Baltimore.[3] Afterward, Jealous’ father was disowned by his white family from New England.[3]

Early activism[edit]

At Columbia, Jealous began working as an organizer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.[4] 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.[4] During his suspension, Jealous traveled the South.[4] 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.[4] 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.[4] 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.[4]

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, 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.[5]

Jealous then accepted a position as President of the Rosenberg Foundation, a private independent nonprofit venture capital organization.



Most recently, Jealous served as President of the NAACP. 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.[6]

The NAACP has 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[7] for the 2012 presidential election; leading the charge for Connecticut[8] and Maryland[9] to abolish the death penalty; endorsing marriage equality;[9] and fighting laws the NAACP claims were intended for voter suppression in states across the country.[10]

During Jealous’ tenure, the NAACP's online activists have 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 has topped one million.[11]

Coalition building[edit]

Jealous has 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"[12] 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.[12] 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.[13] Finally, in 2013 Jealous gave the keynote address at the A10 Rally for Citizenship, a major rally for immigration reform at the US Capitol.[14]

Jealous has also led the NAACP to work with unlikely allies. In 2011 he spoke at the National Press Club[15] 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.”[16] In Texas later that year, the NAACP worked with leaders of the Tea Party to pass a dozen[17] 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.[18]

Awards and honors[edit]

Jealous has received widespread recognition for his work. In December 2012 he 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.[19]

Jealous has been named to various lists of top leaders, including #3 on The 2012 Root Top 100 list;[20] Time Magazine’s “40 Under 40” rising stars of American politics (2010);[21] Nonprofit Times’ “Power & Influence Top 50” list (2010, 2011);[22] and Fortune Magazine’s “40 Under 40” list (2012).[23] In March 2013, he was named a Young Global Leader by the Davos World Economic Forum.[24]

In 2009, Jealous received the John Jay Award for distinguished professional achievement from Columbia College and spoke as the Class Day speaker at Columbia University in March 2010.[25][26] He is also a 2013 Prime Mover Fellow, part of a program for emerging and established social movement leaders working at the national level.[27]

Personal life[edit]

Jealous lives in Maryland with his children. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and is affiliated with the Washington (DC) Alumni Chapter.


  1. ^ Martin, Roland (May 17, 2008). "35-year-old chosen to lead NAACP". CNN. Archived from the original on March 26, 2009. Retrieved February 22, 2009. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b c "Young man moves up". Baltimore Sun. 
  3. ^ a b "Justice's Son". Columbia Magazine. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "The Other Black President". The American Prospect. 
  5. ^ Threat and Humiliation: Racial Profiling, Domestic Security, and Human Rights in the United States Amnesty International
  6. ^ "NAACP Opens Financial Freedom Center to Provide Financial Education and Combat Discrimination". NAACP. April 4, 2011. 
  7. ^ >"Medgar Evers Would Be Proud". Trice Edney News Wire. 
  8. ^ "Malloy In Houston, Addresses National NAACP Convention On Death Penalty". The Courant. July 9, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b "What's left for O'Malley?". The Baltimore Sun. April 14, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Voting rights are under attack". Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  11. ^ "NAACP bio". Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  12. ^ a b "'One Nation' rally offers 'antidote' to Tea Party". USA Today. October 2, 2010. Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  13. ^ Leland, John; Moynihan, Colin (June 17, 2012). "Thousands March Silently to Protest Stop-and-Frisk Policies". The New York Times. Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Why the NAACP Gets Top Billing at an Immigration Rally". Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Benjamin Jealous and Grover Norquist discuss Overincarceration". Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Misplaced Priorities: A New Report From NAACP". Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Two Questions for Ben Jealous, President of the NAACP". Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  18. ^ "NAACP leader, McDonnell praise cooperation on rights initiative". Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Puffin Foundation". 
  20. ^ "2012 The Root 100". The Root. 
  21. ^ "40 Under 40". Time Magazine. October 14, 2010. 
  22. ^ "The NPT Power & Influence Top 50". 
  23. ^ "40 Under 40". Fortune. October 11, 2012. 
  24. ^ "List of 2013 Young Global Leaders Honourees from North America". 
  25. ^ "Five Alumni Presented with John Jay Awards". Columbia College Today. 
  26. ^ "Ben Jealous Class Day speaker". Columbia Spectator. 
  27. ^ "2013 Fellows". Prime Movers. 

External links[edit]