Cornell William Brooks
|Cornell William Brooks|
|President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People|
May 2014 – June 2017
|Preceded by||Lorraine Miller|
|Born||1961 (age 55–56)
El Paso, Texas, U.S.
|Alma mater||Jackson State University (B.A.)
Boston University (M.Div.)
Yale University (J.D.)
Cornell William Brooks (born 1961) is an American lawyer and activist. He was chosen to be the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in May 2014. He previously served as president of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice in Newark, New Jersey, and as executive director of the Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington. Brooks attended Jackson State University, where he received a BA in political science with honors. He subsequently earned his Master of Divinity, with a concentration in social ethics and systematic theology, at the Boston University School of Theology. He also received a law degree from Yale Law School, where he was a Senior Editor of the Yale Law Journal and member of the Yale Law and Policy Review.
Brooks was Senior Counsel with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), directing the FCC’s Office of Communication Business Opportunities. He also served as a trial attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. He ran as the Democratic Nominee for U.S. Congress for the 10th District of Virginia in 1998 on a platform for public education, affordable healthcare and fiscal responsibility. In 2010, Brooks served on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's transition team on the Committee on Homeland Security and Corrections.
The executive board of the NAACP elected Brooks as the next chief executive on May 16, 2014 by a large majority. His appointment followed a period of turmoil for the organization, which had a severe budget shortfall and laid off workers only months before Brooks' election. Furthermore, even though branches are autonomous from the main organization, the national office received scrutiny about fundraising after the Los Angeles branch awarded Donald Sterling, the Los Angeles Clippers owner who was banned from the NBA after racist remarks, with a lifetime achievement award. Brooks later delivered a message to the NAACP's 105th Convention in Las Vegas, NV, calling for an NAACP "one million members strong." During the convention, he hosted Vice President Joe Biden, who addressed delegates about voter suppression.
In October 2014, Brooks began a Justice Tour, starting in his birthplace, El Paso, TX. The bus tour had a goal to encourage people to vote and discuss social justice issues in their community. He also led a 7-day march, "Journey for Justice" in Missouri from the Canfield Green Apartments, where unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer, to Jefferson City in 2014. The march met racist opposition in Rosebud, MO, where a "display of fried chicken, a melon and a 40-ounce beer bottle had been placed in the street."  The march's accompanying bus was reported to have been shot, shattering its back window; however, this was never verified and some claim it was false. The 134-mile march ended with a protest at the state Capitol Building.
On May 19, 2017, the national board of the NAACP voted to dismiss Brooks from his position as president and CEO, explaining the move was part of a “systemwide refresh.” In discussing the decision, NAACP Board Chairman Leon Russell said the change was made to ensure the organization would be better positioned to contest the "onslaught of civil rights assaults and rollbacks" the board expected would occur under the new presidential administration of Donald Trump. Russell further explained a search would commence to find a leader who would focus on strengthening local NAACP chapters and handling policymaking processes at the local, regional, and state level.
Brooks began his career serving a judicial clerkship with Chief Judge Sam J. Ervin, III, on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In Washington, DC, he directed the FCC’s Office of Communication Business Opportunities and served as the Executive Director of the Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington. His work continued as a trial attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the U.S. Department of Justice, where he secured one of the largest government settlements for victims of housing discrimination based on testing, and filed the government’s first lawsuit against a nursing home alleging housing discrimination based on race.
In New Jersey, Brooks served as Second Vice-Chair of the East Orange General Hospital Board of Trustees, Vice-Chair of the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority, and on the National Governing Board of Common Cause. He was the president and CEO of Newark-based New Jersey Institute for Social Justice prior to taking the helm of the NAACP.
Brooks was born in El Paso, Texas in 1961. He grew up in Georgetown, South Carolina and is a graduate of Head Start. Rev. James Edmund Prioleau, Brooks’s grandfather, ran for Congress in the 1940s, in a symbolic effort to increase voter registration among blacks and to help recruit NAACP members. He is a fourth-generation minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Brooks was called to join the ministry while attending Jackson State University where he met his wife, Janice. He has two sons, Cornell II and Hamilton. Brooks is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
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- Media related to Cornell William Brooks at Wikimedia Commons