NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Logo of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (NAACP LDF, the Inc. Fund, or LDF) is a leading United States civil rights organization and law firm based in New York City.

The organization can trace its origins to the legal department of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that was created by Charles Hamilton Houston in the 1930s.[1][2] However, in 1940, Thurgood Marshall established LDF as a separate legal entity and, in 1957, the organization became totally independent of the NAACP.[3]

John Payton served as LDF's 6th director-counsel and president from 2008 until his death in March, 2012.[4] Sherrilyn Ifill was named the new president and director-counsel of LDF in November 2012.[5]


While primarily focused on the civil rights of African Americans in the U.S., LDF states it has "been instrumental in the formation of similar organizations that have replicated its organizational model in order to promote equality for Asian-Americans, Latinos, and women in the United States." LDF has also been involved in "the campaign for human rights throughout the world, including in South Africa, Canada, Brazil, and elsewhere."[3]

LDF's national office is in Manhattan, with regional offices in Washington, D.C. LDF has nearly two dozen staff lawyers and hundreds of cooperating attorneys across the nation.[3]

Areas of activity

Areas of concern

Creation and separation from the NAACP

The board of directors of the NAACP created the Legal Defense Fund in 1940 specifically for tax purposes.[6] In 1957, intimidated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service, LDF was completely separated from the NAACP and given its own independent board and staff.[6] Although LDF was originally meant to operate in accordance with NAACP policy, after 1961, serious disputes emerged between the two organizations. These disputes ultimately led the NAACP to create its own internal legal department while LDF continued to operate and score significant legal victories as an independent organization.[2][7]

At times, this separation has created considerable confusion in the eyes and minds of the public.[7] Indeed, in the 1980s, the NAACP unsuccessfully sued LDF for trademark infringement.[2]

Well-known cases

Probably the most famous case in the history of LDF was Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark case in 1954 in which the United States Supreme Court explicitly outlawed de jure racial segregation of public education facilities. During the civil rights protests of the 1960s, LDF represented "the legal arm of the civil rights movement" and provided counsel for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., among others.[3]










Prominent LDF attorneys

A number of prominent attorneys have been affiliated with LDF over the years, including Barack Obama who was an LDF cooperating attorney.[3] The following, non-exhaustive list of LDF alumni demonstrates the breadth of positions these attorneys have held or currently hold in public service, the government, academia, the private sector, and other areas.


  1. "LDF@70: 70 Years of Fulfilling the Promise of Equality" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-11-19.
  2. 1 2 3 "NAACP v. NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., 753 F.2d 131 (D.C. Circuit 1985)". Retrieved 2010-11-19.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 NAACP Legal Defense Fund - History
  4. NAACP Legal Defense Fund - John Payton Bio
  5. 1 2 "Biographies: NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Teaching Judicial History,".
  6. 1 2 Hooks (1979)
  7. Tarter, Brent. "Aline Elizabeth Black (1906–1974)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  8., The official site provides a Flash-based history of the major cases taken on by LDF. This article has taken extensive portions of this page with the permission of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., the copyright holder of that material.
  14. "U.S. Senate Confirms EEOC Chair, Two Commissioners and General Counsel," EEOC Press Release, December 23, 2010
  15. Robert L. Carter
  16. Mississippi Freedom Summer
  17. 'Eric Holder In Profile,' Washington Post, November 18, 2008
  18. 1997-Elaine Jones
  19. 'Pamela S. Karlan - Profile,' New York Times, Updated May 26, 2009
  20. 'David E. Kendall Bio,' Williams & Connolly
  21. Asian-American Is Named To Top Civil Rights Position - New York Times
  26. "Columbia Law School : Full Time Faculty : Theodore M. Shaw". 1961-11-09. Retrieved 2010-12-09.

Further reading

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