Read a PDF of our statement here.

Today, House Democrats elected New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries as House Minority Leader for the upcoming 118th Congress. With this historic vote, Rep. Jeffries becomes the first Black person to serve as a congressional party leader in either chamber for either major party in American history.

In response to the vote, Legal Defense Fund (LDF) President and Director-Counsel Janai Nelson issued the following statement:

“We congratulate Representative Hakeem Jeffries on his historic election as House Minority Leader for the 118th Congress. His election marks another important moment for our nation as our legislative halls at the federal and state levels continue to become more representative of our multi-racial, multi-ethnic democracy. It is fitting that this historic vote occurred on the birthdate of the honorable Shirley Chisholm, a trailblazer, also from Brooklyn, who is a standard-bearer of public service and unapologetic advocacy for racial justice.” 

“We look forward to working with Rep. Jeffries to advance issues critical to Black communities and other communities of color, especially in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice reform, education equity, and economic justice.”


Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.