Ben Jealous is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Formerly, he was the 17th president and CEO of the NAACP. Appointed at age 35 in 2008, Jealous was the youngest person to lead the NAACP. During his tenure the NAACP's online activists swelled from 175,000 to more than 600,000; its donors increased from 16,000 individuals per year to more than 120,000; and its membership increased three years in a row for the first time in more than 20 years.
Jealous began his career as a community organizer in Harlem in 1991 with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund while working his way through college. In 1993, after being suspended for organizing student protests at Columbia University, he went to work as an investigative reporter for Mississippi's frequently firebombed Jackson Advocate newspaper.
Over the past two decades he has helped organize successful campaigns to abolish the death penalty for children, stop Mississippi's governor from turning a public historically black university into a prison, and pass federal legislation against prison rape. His journalistic investigations have been credited with helping save the life of a white inmate who was being threatened for helping convict corrupt prison guards, free a black small farmer who was being framed for arson, and spur official investigations into law enforcement corruption.
A Rhodes Scholar, he is a graduate of Columbia and Oxford University and the past president of the Rosenberg Foundation, and he served as the founding director of Amnesty International's U.S. Human Rights Program. While at Amnesty, he authored the widely cited report "Threat and Humiliation: Racial Profiling, Domestic Security and Human Rights in the United States."
As president of the NAACP he opened national programs on education, health and environmental justice. He also greatly increased the organization's capacity to work on issues related to the economy and register and mobilize voters. Since leaving NAACP he joined Kapor Capital, an Oakland-based firm that leverages the technology sector to create progressive social change.
A fifth-generation member of the NAACP, Jealous comes from a long line of American freedom fighters. His mother, who descends from two black Reconstruction statesmen, desegregated Baltimore's Western High School for Girls in 1954 as a member of the NAACP's Youth and College Division. His father, who descends from a Revolutionary War soldier who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill and Sufragettes, was one of a small number of white men jailed during the Congress of Racial Equality's efforts to desegregate Baltimore's downtown business district. He lives in Maryland with his two children.