Civil Rights

Program rolls out next generation of civil rights attorneys

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A new generation of civil rights lawyers is being trained and deployed to fight racial injustice and inequity across the South, thanks to a program started in 2021 through a $40 million donation to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

This month, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund launched its third cohort of the Marshall-Motley Scholars Program with 10 new scholars.

Participants receive a full law school scholarship, special training sponsored by the LDF and the National Academy of Sciences and a summer internship focused on racial justice. Aspiring attorneys must agree to work in the South for at least eight years upon completion of the program.

Named after former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall—a civil rights attorney, the first Black justice and founder of the LDF—and well-known civil rights litigator Constance Baker Motley, the program’s goal is to equip create a corps of highly trained advocates to take on issues including voter suppression and racial inequity.

Organizers also note that, according to the ABA, student loans disproportionately burden lawyers of color, and the Marshall-Motley Scholars Program is an intentional effort to offset the barriers that often block minority lawyers from pursuing civil rights careers.

“Our scholars are creating positive impact at law schools across the country and are making valuable contributions through their work as interns in legal organizations fighting for racial justice,” Jino Ray, who directs the Marshall-Motley Scholars Program, told the ABA Journal. “As our inaugural cohort of scholars begins their last year of law school, we are excited to support them as they prepare for graduation and deepen their commitment to racial justice as civil rights law fellows at leading firms and organizations throughout the South.”

So far, participants of previous cohorts have interned at organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Center for Human Rights and the Equal Justice Initiative.

Over the next five years, the Marshall-Motley Scholars Program plans to have a total of 50 civil rights attorneys who will pursue racial justice in the South.

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