LDF Turns 76, Continuing Its More Than Seven Decades-Long Civil Rights Work

March 20, 2016, marks the 76th anniversary of the incorporation of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF).

Thurgood Marshall, LDF’s founder and, later, the nation’s first African-American Supreme Court Justice, drafted LDF’s corporate charter on a yellow pad of paper more than 70 years ago — a simple beginning to what would become America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice.

LDF’s work over more than seven decades, under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall through the current President and Director-Counsel, Sherrilyn Ifill, has focused on four key areas: Criminal Justice, Economic Justice, Education, and Political Participation. Read about our casework, past and present, below in celebration of our anniversary.


Thurgood Marshall

LDF Director-Counsel: Thurgood Marshall

  • In Smith v. Allwright (1944), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the exclusion of African Americans from voting in Texas primary elections violated the Fifteenth Amendment. The case ushered in the Second Reconstruction and the modern civil rights movement. Read more here.
  • In Brown v. the Board of Education (1954), the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that held public school segregation unconstitutional, overruling the “separate but equal” doctrine and forever changing the course of Americam history. Read more here.


Jack Greenberg

LDF Director-Counsel: Jack Greenberg

  • In Green v. County School Board of New Kent County (1968), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “freedom of choice” plans often resulted in the exact segregation that Brown found unconstitutional, stating that public schools must do better at meaningfully and genuinely achieving integration. Read more here.
  • In Griggs v. Duke Power Company (1971), the U.S. Supreme Court held that Duke’s standardized testing and high school diploma requirements barred African-American employees in disproportionate numbers from being hired by, or advancing to higher-paying departments, within the company. Read more here.


Julius Chambers

LDF Director-Counsel: Julius Chambers

  • In Thornburg v. Gingles (1986), the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that at-large election of state legislators in North Carolina illegally diluted black voting strength in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Read more here.
  • In Chisom v. Roemer (1991), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 applied to the election of judges, per Section 2 of the Act. Read more about LDF’s voting rights work here.


Elaine Jones

LDF President and Director-Counsel: Elaine Jones

  • In Campaign to Save Our Public Hospitals v. Giuliani (1999), the New York Court of Appeals barred an attempt by New York City’s mayor to privatize public hospitals, and thereby cut hospital services for the poor. Read more about our litigation in fighting for economic justice here.
  • In Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of narrowly-tailored, race-conscious university admissions policies. Read more here.


Ted Shaw

LDF President and Director-Counsel: Ted Shaw

  • In Gonzales v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores (2005), a federal district court approved a consent decree requiring significant corporate reforms to promote workforce diversity, resulting in more than $40 million in relief to rejected applicants and employees who alleged racial and gender discrimination. Read more here.
  • In Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District (2007), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down voluntary integration plans in Seattle, Washington, and Jefferson County, Kentucky, but upheld the constitutionality of school district efforts to promote diversity and reduce racial isolation. Read more about the case and others like it here.


John Payton

LDF President and Director-Counsel: John Payton

  • In Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder (2009), the U.S. Supreme Court declined a municipal utility district’s plea that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act should be struck down as no longer constitutionally necessary to safeguard minority voting rights. Read more about the case here.
  • In Lewis v. City of Chicago  (2010), the U.S. Supreme Court held Chicago could be held accountable for each and every time it used a hiring practice that discriminatorily blocked qualified minority applicants from employment as firefighters. Read more about this case here.


Sherrilyn Ifill

LDF President and Director-Counsel: Sherrilyn Ifill

  • In Cogdell v. Wet Seal (2013), a federal district court approved a $7.5 million settlement of a national class action lawsuit, which alleged that Wet Seal had discriminatory pay, promotion and firing policies impacting African-American store management employees, clearing the way for injunctive relief and payment to current and former Black managers. Read more about the settlement here.
  • In Greater Birmingham Ministries v. Alabama (2015), LDF filed a federal lawsuit, which challenges Alabama’s racially discriminatory photo ID law and voucher requirement that has likely affected the rights of at least 280,000 registered voters in the State. LDF continues to pursue this case in 2016. Read more about the lawsuit here