$40 Million Effort from LDF for Next Generation of Civil Rights Attorneys in the South

Wow announcement via email:

Today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) launched the groundbreaking Marshall-Motley Scholars Program (MMSP), an innovative educational and training opportunity that will produce the next generation of civil rights attorneys to serve Black communities in the South. As LDF celebrates its 80th anniversary year, the new scholarship and pipeline program builds upon its legacy of fighting for racial justice in America and producing leading advocates against racial injustice. The MMSP demonstrates LDF’s ongoing commitment to the South, where the majority of its clients reside, and launches as LDF prepares to open its southern regional office in Atlanta this year.

The MMSP is made possible by a generous anonymous donor who has committed to funding a program of 50 participants, which amounts to a $40 million investment in developing a new generation of civil rights lawyers in the South.

“For 80 years, LDF has been at the forefront of developing and supporting many of our nation’s legendary civil rights lawyers and leaders. The Marshall-Motley Scholars Program is the next phase of our commitment to identify and invest in a new generation of brilliant minds who have a deep personal desire to bring about racial justice in the South,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel

“The majority of Black people in this country still live in the South and continuously face impediments to voting, education equity, and racial and economic justice. For this reason, LDF’s docket and litigation practice has always been rooted principally in the South. During the 1960s, and early ‘70s, LDF invested in the creation of Black law firms in the South, providing fellowships and start-up costs for the law practices of some of the most celebrated civil rights lawyers in the region, including former LDF President and Director-Counsel Julius Chambers, a legend among civil rights lawyers in North Carolina. The time is ripe once again, for LDF to invest in the growth and development of civil rights lawyers in the South. With the MMSP, and the opening of our new regional office in Atlanta, LDF is deepening its longstanding presence in the South to help leverage the talent, passion, and commitment of a new cohort of civil rights attorneys dedicated to serving the majority of Black people in the country.” 

Over the next two decades, the MMSP aims to support the education and training of 50 aspiring civil rights lawyers. The program will afford participants: 

  • a full law school scholarship for tuition, room, board, and incidentals — to ease the debt burden that can prevent future lawyers from pursuing a career in racial justice;
  • summer internships to begin their training as civil rights lawyers early in their law school careers;
  • a two-year postgraduate fellowship at a national or regional civil rights organization with a racial justice law practice in the South — to provide unprecedented access to professional development and skills-building, training and preparation; and
  • access to special trainings sponsored by LDF and the National Academy of Sciences. 

In return, Scholars commit to practicing civil rights law in pursuit of racial justice in the South for at least eight years following the conclusion of their fellowship. Students beginning law school in the 2021 academic year are eligible to apply.

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