NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

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NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

In 1940 the organization formerly known as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and now called the NAACP launched the Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF). Since its founding, the organization has been involved in more cases before the U.S. Supreme Court than any other nongovernmental organization.

The NAACP, which had been founded in 1909 to support Civil Rights, soon found itself needing direction and aid as it sought to help people find their way through the criminal justice system. Under the leadership of future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the LDF was created to provide information about the criminal justice system and legal assistance to indigent African Americans.

In 1957, three years after the Supreme Court's landmark decision in brown v. board of education of topeka, kansas, 347 U.S. 483, 47 S.Ct. 686, 98 L.Ed. 873, which held that Segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, the LDF was established as an entirely separate organization from the NAACP. The LDF is headquartered in New York City and has regional offices in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. The LDF has close to two dozen attorneys on staff whose work is supplemented by assistance from hundreds of attorneys around the United States.

The LDF primarily works with issues involving education, Affirmative Action, fair employment and economic access, issues related to voting and other forms of civic and political participation, and criminal justice issues including the death penalty and prison reform. With more than 100 active cases, the LDF has one of the largest legal caseloads of any public service organization in the country.

While the primary focus of the LDF is on court cases, the fund also monitors legislation, provides advocacy, education research, and builds coalitions with related organizations. The scope of LDF activity has also widened to include advocacy for other minorities in this country as well as for global Human Rights. To this end, the LDF has aided in the establishment of similar organizations that advocate for other minority groups in the United States. Additionally, the fund has used its experience and legal expertise to help form public interest legal organizations in Brazil, Canada, and South Africa.In addition to the Brown case which resulted in a flood of legal cases around the country relating to School Desegregation, the LDF won a number of significant cases in the 1950s that concerned housing discrimination, voting access, jury selection, the use of forced confessions, and access to counsel by indigent persons.

In the 1960s the LDF provided counsel for martin luther king jr., and other civil rights activists. The LDF also began its drive to abolish Capital Punishment. LDF provided counsel in numerous death penalty cases and was able to stop executions in the United States between 1966 and 1978. Since 1965 the LDF has published Death Row USA, a list of death-row inmates.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the LDF undertook hundreds of Class Action suits against employers, unions, and governmental units that have helped secure and safeguard the employment rights of thousands of workers.

The LDF also continued to support major voting rights legislation and to be involved in numerous cases aimed at securing voting rights for minorities. In the early 2000s the LDF continued to be involved in cases stemming from the redistricting of congressional districts after the 2000 census. After the 2000 presidential election, the LDF and five other civil rights organizations filed a class action lawsuit against Florida's Secretary of State and other elected officials alleging that a significant number of minority citizens were unable to vote or faced severe obstacles in trying to register and vote.

In the early 2000s the Fund continued its fight in support of equal education and affirmative action. In February 2003 the LDF filed briefs in two major suits that challenged the use of race-conscious criteria in the admissions programs of the University of Michigan law school and its undergraduate School of Literature, Science, and the Arts. In June the Supreme Court decided in favor of the University of Michigan race-conscious criteria for admissions (Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S., ___, 123 S.Ct. 2235, 156 L.Ed.2d 304 [U.S., Jun. 23, 2003]).

Further readings

Greenberg, Jack. 1994. Crusaders in the Courts: How a Dedicated Band of Lawyers Fought for the Civil Rights Revolution. New York: BasicBooks.

Kluger, Richard. 2004. Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality. Rev. ed. New York: Knopf.

Orfield, Gary, Susan E. Eaton, and Elaine R. Jones. 1997. Dismantling Desegregation: The Quiet Reversal of Brown v. Board of Education. New York: New Press.

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Available online at <> (accessed July 28, 2003).

Schwartz, Bernard. 1986. Swann's Way: The School Busing Case and the Supreme Court. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.


Civil Rights Acts; Equal Protection; NAACP.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
McGhee and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (NAACP LDF) President Sherrilyn Ifill, who are both advising Starbucks on its program, said they have been in regular contact with company executives, particularly Chief Operating Officer Rosalind Brewer, who also is African-American.
"This administration continues to perpetuate a falsehood, a falsehood with disastrous consequences," Sherrilyn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said in a statement on Tuesday.
Given current rates of incarceration, one in three of the next generation of black men will be disfranchised--denied the right to vote--as a result of a felony conviction at some point during his lifetime, writes the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Currently, more than 1.5 million black men, or 13% of all African American men in the U.S.
It appears that the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is the lone organization that has made this issue its main priority.
Because of these background concerns about the racial implications of the war on drugs, the Tulia cases eventually received wide attention, rousing the ire of New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, attracting coverage by major media outlets, and inspiring the efforts of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which enlisted the pro bono assistance of experienced lawyers from big-time law firms.
President and CEO Linda Johnson Rice (2rid from I.) is joined by award recipients and attendees at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund's National Equal Justice Award Dinner.
Jones announced that effective May 1 she is stepping down as President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., after 32 distinguished years as an attorney with the LDF.
Marshall and other lawyers at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund had worked for years to establish the legal framework for the Brown decision.
* Betty Phillips Adams (public member), currently a consultant for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Federation of Protestant Welfare Organizations, a social service agency.
He has served as assistant to the Solicitor General in the Justice Department and as assistant counsel to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The views expressed in this article are solely the author's.