Sherrilyn Ifill is the seventh President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the nation’s premier civil rights legal organization. LDF was founded in 1940 by legendary civil rights lawyer (and later Supreme Court Justice) Thurgood Marshall. Ifill served as an Assistant Counsel for LDF from 1988-1993, litigating voting rights cases. She left LDF to teach at the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore, where in addition to teaching in the classroom, she litigated civil rights cases alongside her students for 20 years.
Ifill returned to LDF to lead the organization in 2013 and has emerged as one of the nation’s leading voices in the struggle for racial justice and equality. Under her leadership, LDF has intensified its litigation challenging voter suppression, racial discrimination in the criminal justice system and housing discrimination, and has taken a leadership role in resisting federal efforts to roll back civil rights gains in areas such as affirmative action, employment discrimination and school discipline policies. The organization is at the forefront of civil rights organizations challenging unconstitutional policing practices in cities around the country.
A critically acclaimed author, her scholarly articles and her 2007 book “On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century,” reflect Ifill’s lifelong engagement in and analysis of issues of race and American public life. Ifill graduated from Vassar College in 1984 with a B.A. in English and earned her J.D. from New York University School of Law in 1987. She has received honorary doctorates from New York University, Bard College, Fordham Law School and CUNY Law School. In 2019, Ifill was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. She serves on the board of the Learning Policy Institute, the Advisory board for the Profiles in Courage Award and the Board of Trustees for the Baltimore Museum of Art. She is a past chair of U.S. board of the Open Society Foundations, one of the largest philanthropic supporters of civil rights and liberties in the country.