NAACP President and CEO Cornell Brooks

Today, on the 60th Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the NAACP has announced that Cornell William Brooks will become its 18th national President and Chief Executive Officer.

“With today being the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education … I’m a graduate of Yale Law School, I am an heir, a beneficiary, a grandson of Brown v. Board of Education, so as a consequence, I am an heir to the legacy of the NAACP,” Brooks said in a telephone interview with USA Today. It is the “sacrifice of members past and present that led to me being where I am,” Brooks added.

Although the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the NAACP have been separate organizations since 1957, both entities have enjoyed a fruitful relationship working in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice reform, and economic justice. Brooks’ expertise in housing discrimination is especially prescient as residential segregation plays a pernicious and powerful role in perpetuating school segregation.

“I have been a great admirer of Cornell Brooks for some time. He is a brilliant and committed social justice advocate and civil rights lawyer, and a man of tremendous integrity,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President & Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc., “This selection is a home-run for the NAACP. We stand ready to continue and to strengthen our longstanding collegial and collaborative relationship with the NAACP with Mr. Brooks at the helm,” Ifill added.

Brooks is a fourth-generation ordained minister and the executive director of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. He is a former senior counsel with the Federal Communications Commission and a former trial attorney with the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. At Yale Law School, he was senior editor of the Yale Law Journal. He has a master’s degree in divinity from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree from Jackson State University.