The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) has announced the launch of a program aimed at developing the next generation of civil rights attorneys serving Black communities in the South.
Funded by a $40 million gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, the Marshall-Motley Scholars Program (MMSP) will support the education and training of fifty aspiring civil rights lawyers over the next two decades. Named in honor of Thurgood Marshall, LDF's founder and the nation's first Black Supreme Court justice, and Constance Baker Motley, a former LDF attorney and the first Black woman to become a federal judge, the program will provide recipients with a full law school scholarship; summer internships that provide training as a civil rights lawyer early in their law school careers; a two-year postgraduate fellowship at a civil rights organization with a racial justice law practice in the South; and access to special trainings sponsored by LDF and the National Academy of Sciences.
For their part, Marshall-Motley scholars must commit to practicing civil rights law in pursuit of racial justice in the South for at least eight years following the conclusion of their fellowship. Students beginning law school in the 2021 academic year are eligible to apply. LDF, which is celebrating its eightieth anniversary, plans to open a regional office in Atlanta later this year.
According to the American Bar Association, student loans take a disproportionate toll on lawyers of color, often forcing them to pursue unwanted career paths. MMSP is designed to address the racial and economic barriers that often deter students from pursuing their dreams of becoming civil rights attorneys.
"For eighty years, LDF has been at the forefront of developing and supporting many of our nation's legendary civil rights lawyers and leaders," said LDF president and director-counsel Sherrilyn Ifill. "The Marshall-Motley Scholars Program is the next phase of our commitment to identify and invest in a new generation of brilliant minds who have a deep personal desire to bring about racial justice in the South. The majority of Black people in this country still live in the South and continuously face impediments to voting, education equity, and racial and economic justice....The time is ripe once again for LDF to invest in the growth and development of civil rights lawyers in the South."