The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund launched a $40 million scholarship on Monday to support pursuing racial justice across the South. With a whopping gift from a single donor, the fund plans to put 50 students through law schools around the country. In return, the students must commit to eight years of racial justice work in the South.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said “The donor very much wanted to support the development of civil rights lawyers in the South. And we have a little bit of experience with that.”
“While without question we are in a perilous moment in this country, we are also in a moment of tremendous possibility, particularly in the South,” Ifill said. “The elements for change are very much present in the South, and what needs to be strengthened is the capacity of lawyering.”
The NAACP chose Martin Luther King Day to announce the Marshall-Motley Scholars Program, named for the Supreme Court justice and for Constance Baker Motley, who was an LDF attorney just a few years out of Columbia University Law School when she wrote the initial complaint that led to the court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling outlawing racial segregation in public schools. She then went on become the first black female federal judge.