The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund has announced the launch of a program aimed at ushering 50 new civil rights lawyers into the South.
The scholarship initiative, which comes from a $40 million donation from a single anonymous donor, will pay for the law school tuition in exchange for a eight-year commitment towards racial justice work specifically in the South. The first two years after graduating must be spent in a fellowship with the civil rights organization of their choosing.
"The donor came to us," Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said, per New York Daily News. "The donor very much wanted to support the development of civil rights lawyers in the South. And we have a little bit of experience with that."
"While without question we are in a perilous moment in this country, we are also in a moment of tremendous possibility, particularly in the South," Ifill added. "The elements for change are very much present in the South, and what needs to be strengthened is the capacity of lawyering."
It will be named the Marshall-Motley Scholars Program after former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and Constance Baker Motley. In 1940, Marshall founded the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and become the first Black Supreme Court Justice in 1967. Motley served as Marshall's law clerk, most notably assisting him in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. Motley made history of her own when she became the first Black woman federal judge when she was appointed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.