$40M Gift to NAACP from Single Anonymous Donor Will Put 50 Civil Rights Lawyers Through School

The NAACP is continuing Martin Luther King Jr.'s work toward racial equality — thanks, in part, to a generous gift. 

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund launched a $40 million scholarship program on Monday that will help 50 students throughout the country who are committed to fighting racial injustice pay for law school. It's the result of a gift from one single anonymous donor, according to the Associated Press. 

"The donor came to us," Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the Legal Defense and Educational Fund said in a statement. "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."

Founded in 1940 by Thurgood Marshall, who would eventually become the first Black Supreme Court Justice, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund has helped increase legal representation for marginalized groups and win court cases challenging segregation, racial discrimination and related issues. 

The Marshall-Motley Scholars program honors the late Supreme Court Justice as well as Constance Baker Motley, the nation's first Black woman federal judge. 

After graduating, the students selected for the scholarship must complete a two-year fellowship with a civil rights organization and commit to a minimum of eight years of working on civil rights law in the South, NPR reports. 

"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."

Donations to the LDF swelled following the May 25 death of George Floyd as companies like Verizon, Peloton and the Coca-Cola Foundation have pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars to the organization.

"Our country continues to be plagued with racial injustice, and we need Nonviolent Warriors who are prepared and equipped on all fronts to deal with it – especially on the legal front," the Rev. Bernice King said in a statement supporting the program. "It will allow the LDF to make greater strides on behalf of the Black community for generations to come in the area of racial justice, just as they did during the movement led by my parents."

Students can apply for the scholarship here. The application deadline is Feb. 16.

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