35-year-old chosen to lead NAACP

The NAACP has chosen Ben Jealous as its new president after a contentious debate that lasted long into the night, members of its board of directors said Saturday.

Jealous, 35, will be the youngest president in the NAACP’s 99-year history, The Associated Press reported.

When the 34-21 vote was announced, “no one clapped or celebrated,” one board member said after the meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.

According to the official NAACP website, Benjamin Todd Jealous served as President of the Rosenberg Foundation- a private independent institution that supports advocacy efforts to make significant improvements in the lives of California’s working families and recent immigrants. He was the fourth person to hold the position since the Foundation was founded in 1935.

Mr. Jealous was Director of US Human Rights Program at Amnesty International. While there he led its efforts to pass federal legislation against prison rape, rebuild public consensus against racial profiling in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, and expose the widespread sentencing of children to life without the possibility of parole. He is the lead author of the 2004 report Threat and Humiliation: Racial Profiling, Domestic Security, and Human Rights in the United States, the release of which received coverage by major media outlets in most states and on six continents.

Formerly, Mr. Jealous served as Executive Director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA)-a federation of more than 200 black community newspapers. While at the NNPA, he rebuilt its 90-year old national news service and spearheaded the creation of a proprietary software system that enabled dozens of local papers to begin publishing online.

During the mid 1990s, Mr. Jealous served as Managing Editor of the Jackson Advocate, Mississippi’s oldest black newspaper. His reporting for the frequently-firebombed weekly was credited with exposing corruption amongst high-ranking officials at the state prison in Parchman, and helping to acquit a small farmer who had been wrongfully and maliciously accused of arson.
He initially came to Mississippi as a field organizer on a successful campaign to stop the state’s plan to close two of its three public historically black universities, and convert one of them into a prison.

Mr. Jealous began his career as an organizer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund working on issues of healthcare access.

He was born, raised, and attended public and parochial schools in Monterey County, California. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University and a master’s degree in comparative social research from Oxford University where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

Mr. Jealous is a member of the Asia Society. He is a board member of Northern California Grantmakers and the California Council for the Humanities.

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