Citing stress and family reasons, the head of the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization Benjamin Todd Jealous has announced that he plans to step down as President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on December 31 at the age of 40.
Jealous’ unexpected resignation comes at a time when the nation is facing so many critical issues and in the era of the nation’s first Black president Barack Obama. The NAACP has been working with a number of organizations including the federal government under the first Black U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to address voting rights violations in the South.
The association said Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors, accepted his formal letter of notice this week, which now leaves speculations as to who would fill in the void at this crucial time to succeed Jealous whose contract expires two years from now.
In media interviews, Jealous has signaled the NAACP having a female CEO.
“We thank president Jealous for his time leading the association. Under his leadership, the NAACP has built a highly competent staff that will carry our mission forward and meet the civil rights challenges of the 21st century,” Brock said. “Our board, staff and volunteer leaders throughout the country deeply appreciate his sacrifice, and will continue to implement our game-changing goals for the next half century that include the restoration of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, implementing Trayvon’s Law, bolstering civic engagement efforts and ensuring our community is enrolled in the Affordable Care Act exchanges.”
Jealous praised his own accomplishment at the helm of the NAACP.
“The NAACP has always been the largest civil rights organization in the streets, and today it is also the largest civil rights organization online, on mobile and at the ballot box too,” Jealous said. “I am proud to leave the Association financially sound, sustainable, focused, and more powerful than ever. Beginning next year, I look forward to pursuing opportunities in academia to train the next generation of leaders and, of course, spending a lot more time with my young family.”
In recent years the NAACP has won state and local battles to abolish the death penalty, shrink prison systems, outlaw racial profiling, expand voting rights protections, reform gun laws, close dangerous power plants, expand early childhood education, secure health care coverage for the uninsured and more.
The association said it will continue its work as an ally in the fights for workers’ rights, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, and marriage equality, as well as in the struggle to end the HIV epidemic. Jealous will remain with the Association through December 31, 2013.
Rev. Wendell Anthony, President of the Detroit NAACP, the largest chapter in the nation commended Jealous for his service and dedication in advocating for social justice and equality as head of the NAACP.
“Ben became president of our organization at a very pivotal point in our nation’s history. Under his leadership our membership numbers have increased. We have expanded our online and digital presence and we have continued advocacy around our core issues. Among them Voting Rights, Education and economic access to name only a few,” Anthony said. “We are also pleased with the work done under Jealous’ tenure that led to states such as Maryland removing the death penalty from their law books. Ben Jealous is one of our nation’s bright, young and passionate leaders. We would like to extend to both Ben and his family well wishes and our sincere prayers for his future endeavors. We hope that his example will inspire others to accept the challenge of leading by serving.”
Rev Al Sharpton, head of the National Action Network (NAN) and host of “Politics Nation” on MSNBC met news of the resignation of Jealous with mixed emotions according to a statement his NAN office issued.
“I am happy that he has done so well and leaves his post with no scandal, shame, or physical challenges, and young enough to have a bright future. There is sadness, however, because for the last several years he has joined Marc Morial, (National Urban League) Melanie Campbell (National Coalition on Black Civic Participation), and me as we tried to broaden the civil rights leadership of the 21st century movement,” Sharpton said. “I have known him since he was a student leader at Columbia University and his first arrest was in the Diallo civil disobedience movement that National Action Network (NAN) and I led in New York to protest the police killing of Amadou Diallo.”
Sharpton said he and Jealous worked together until recently as “he joined me and NAN in the fight for justice for Trayvon Martin and helped us as Martin Luther King, III, and I spearheaded the March on Washington 50th Anniversary March to Continue the Dream.”
The New York civil rights leader also spoke about integrity of the outgoing NAACP chief.
“Ben Jealous has operated with integrity and a real sense of hands-on activism. Not only was he able to revive the NAACP and raise its budget to higher heights, he joined us in the streets in real civil rights activity on the ground,” Sharpton said. “From the ‘suites to the streets’ he will be missed as head of the NAACP but I am sure he will not leave us in his contribution to the struggle.”