Sherrilyn Ifill

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Sherrilyn Ifill
Sherrilyn Ifill.jpg
Personal details
Born (1962-12-17) December 17, 1962 (age 59)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
RelativesGwen Ifill (cousin)
EducationVassar College (BA)
New York University (JD)

Sherrilyn Ifill (born December 17, 1962) is an American lawyer. She is a law professor and former president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.[1] She was the Legal Defense Fund's seventh president since Thurgood Marshall founded the organization in 1940. Ifill is also a nationally recognized expert on voting rights and judicial selection.[2] In 2021, Time named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world on its annual Time 100 list.

Early life and education[edit]

Sherrilyn Ifill was born on December 17, 1962, in Baltimore, Maryland[3] to Lester and Myrtle. She is the youngest of 10 children.[4] Her mother passed away when Ifill was 6 years old.[4] She graduated from Hillcrest High School.[5] Ifill has a B.A. from Vassar College and a J.D. from New York University School of Law.[1]

She and the late PBS NewsHour anchor Gwen Ifill were first cousins. Their family immigrated to the U.S. from Barbados,[6] with Sherrilyn's and Gwen's fathers, who were brothers, both becoming African Methodist Episcopal ministers.[7]


While in law school, Ifill interned for Judge A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. the first summer and at the United Nations Centre for Human Rights the second summer.[2] Her first job out of law school was a one-year fellowship with the ACLU in New York.[8] She then served as assistant counsel at the Legal Defense Fund, litigating Voting Rights Act cases including the landmark Houston Lawyers' Association v. Attorney General of Texas.[8] In 1993, she joined the faculty of the University of Maryland Law School, where she taught for two decades.[9][10] She is the author of On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century,[11][12] a 2008 finalist for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Nonfiction.[13]

Ifill regularly appears in the media for her expertise on topics like affirmative action,[14][15] policing,[16] judicial nominees,[17] and the Supreme Court.[18] Ifill has announced that she will step down from the role of president and director-counsel in the spring of 2022, to be replaced by Janai Nelson, currently the associate director-counsel at LDF.[19]

Personal life[edit]

Ifill is married to Ivo Knobloch.[4] They have three children.[3]

Honors and awards[edit]

In 2016, Ifill won the Society of American Law Teachers Great Teacher Award.[20]

Ifill was an American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow in 2019.[21] In 2020, Glamour magazine gave her a Woman of the Year award, calling her a "civil rights superhero."[22] In 2021, Ifill was included on the Time 100, Time's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Thompson, Krissah (January 22, 2013). "Sherrilyn Ifill is to be head of NAACP legal defense and educational fund". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Alumnus/Alumna of the Month | NYU School of Law". Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Sherrilyn Ifill's Biography". The HistoryMakers. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Thompson, Krissah (January 22, 2013). "Sherrilyn Ifill is to be head of NAACP legal defense and educational fund". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  5. ^ "Shaping the Civil Rights Discourse: Sherrilyn Ifill '84 - Vassar, the Alumnae/i Quarterly". Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  6. ^ Alcindor, Yamiche (November 19, 2016). "Thousands of Mourners Celebrate Gwen Ifill's Tenacity and Grace". The New York Times. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  7. ^ Fineman, Howard (November 20, 2016). "Gwen Ifill's Funeral Was A Revival Meeting For America". HuffPost.
  8. ^ a b Okpalaoka, Ugonna (November 19, 2012). "Sherrilyn Ifill named head of NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund". The Grio. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  9. ^ Edney, Hazel Trice (November 26, 2012). "NAACP Legal Defense Fund Names Sherrilyn Ifill Next President". Politic365. Archived from the original on April 10, 2018. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  10. ^ "Closing Statements" (interview with Sherrilyn Ifill). NYU Law Magazine. 2013. Retrieved April 11, 2020.
  11. ^ Levy, Peter B. "On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the Twenty-First Century." The Journal of Southern History 75.2 (2009): 474.
  12. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the Twenty-First Century by Sherrilyn A. Ifill, Author Beacon Press (MA) $25.95 (204p) ISBN 978-0-8070-0987-1". Publishers Weekly. January 29, 2007. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  13. ^ "The Arena: Sherrilyn Ifill Bio". Politico. Archived from the original on May 27, 2009. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  14. ^ Hefling, Kimberly; Gerstein, Josh (June 23, 2016). "Supreme Court upholds college affirmative action program". Politico. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  15. ^ Brown, Emma; Douglas-Gabriel, Danielle (June 23, 2016). "Affirmative action advocates shocked – and thrilled – by Supreme Court's ruling in University of Texas case". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  16. ^ Rubenstein, Samuel (November 21, 2014). "BPR Interview: Sherrilyn Ifill". Brown Political Review. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  17. ^ Burke, Lauren Victoria (March 18, 2016). "Garland Nomination: Black Advocates Want Him Vetted". NBC News. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  18. ^ Barnes, Robert (May 1, 2016). "Scalia's death affecting next term, too? Pace of accepted cases at Supreme Court slows". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  19. ^ "Sherrilyn Ifill to Step Down After Nearly a Decade of LDF Leadership; Longtime Deputy Janai Nelson to Lead LDF" (PDF). NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. LDF Media. November 17, 2021. Retrieved November 17, 2021.
  20. ^ Society of American Law Teachers (May 16, 2016). "Update on SALT Activities." Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  21. ^ "2019 Fellows and International Honorary Members with their affiliations at the time of election". Retrieved March 9, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. ^ John-John Williams IV. "Sherrilyn Ifill Honored as Civil Rights Superhero." Baltimore Sun, October 20, 2020, p. A2.
  23. ^ Specker, Lawrence (September 15, 2021). "Time's '100 most influential' list includes trio with Alabama ties". Retrieved November 10, 2021.

External links[edit]