NAACP LDF President Sherrilyn Ifill Steps Down After Nearly 10 Years; Longtime Deputy Janai Nelson To Lead

NAACP LDF President Sherrilyn Ifill Steps Down After Nearly 10 Years; Longtime Deputy Janai Nelson To Lead

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) have announced President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill will step down from her role next spring.

Ifill spent nearly a decade leading the organization through its greatest period of growth and transformation. Under Ifill’s leadership, LDF has advanced its legacy as the country’s most high-profile racial justice legal organization. The LDF has led the fight against voter suppression, inequity in education, economic disparities, and racial discrimination in the criminal legal system.

“When I returned to lead LDF I was determined that our work would demonstrate that LDF is an
institution that is critical,” Ifill told BLACK ENTERPRISE. “Not only to ensure the protection and constitutional rights of Black people but for the integrity and strengthening of American democracy. I could not be prouder of what we have accomplished together.”

LDF has also been at the forefront of protecting the integrity of the electoral process against a scourge of anti-democratic incursions and providing powerful and relentless advocacy against police violence.

Ifill told BLACK ENTERPRISE her decision to step down came after great thought and reflection adding she feels the time is right.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund announced that President and
Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill will step down from her role next spring after nearly a
decade leading the organization (Image: Finsbury Glover Hering)

“It is time to pass on the reins of leadership,” Ifill said. “I also believe that it is important to begin my transition now, when LDF is as strong as it has ever been in staff, leadership, strategic vision, and resources. And I always hoped to leave at a time when the new leader would have a few years to get her land legs with an administration in the White House that has a clear commitment to civil rights enforcement, as I had in the final years of the Obama Administration.”

Stepping into Ifill’s role is Janai Nelson, LDF’s current Associate Director-Counsel who has worked alongside Ifill for nearly eight years. Ifill had nothing but good words to describe Nelson and called their working relationship the professional collaboration of a lifetime.

I do not think that either of us could have imagined how wonderful our partnership would be. She is a brilliant lawyer and leader; powerful, determined, warm, and supportive,” Ifill told BLACK ENTERPRISE.

“I have no doubt that she will make an excellent Director Counsel. As LDF’s former leaders Julius Chambers and Jack Greenberg were to me before they passed, and as Elaine Jones and Ted Shaw have continued, I will be there to support Janai in every way she needs.”

Ifill and Nelson have both dedicated their lives to the pursuit of racial justice and consider leading LDF as the pinnacle of that work. Their transition marks the first woman-to-woman succession in LDF’s history, and they will continue to work closely together during the transition period to ensure LDF’s vital role in advancing racial and social justice throughout the country.

Ifill called her time at the LDF the privilege of a lifetime and although she’s accomplished so much, she know the fight for civil rights and the fair treatment of Black people in America is not done.

“I began my career as a civil rights lawyer at LDF more than 30 years ago and every day leading this extraordinary, dedicated staff has felt like a dream come true,” Ifill told BLACK ENTERPRISE. “I have given this work my all, and I am proud of our accomplishments, including our increased growth and strength. But I am most proud of the leadership role LDF has played during one of the most tumultuous and volatile periods for civil rights in recent memory. And our fight is far from over.”