Benjamin Todd Jealous, the NNPA and the NAACP


So I see my old boss is a candidate for the NAACP’s top slot. George Curry has weighed in, so as someone who’s worked for both George and Benjamin Todd Jealous at NNPA, I think it’s my turn.

Prologue: I’m not the best employee in the world  🙂 , so of course I had my share of run-ins with both of them within NNPA. But today I consider both friends and, as a Black media historian, I honor deeply their demonstrated commitment to the Black press and independent Black journalism.


So, saying that, I’ll now say this:

If the NAACP is in trouble (and it clearly is), it needs a leader who would devote his or her entire energy to the task. I don’t know anything about the other candidates aside from what Curry has written.

Here’s what I do know, from my own eyes:

Between 1999 and 2001, Ben and his assistant, Adina Berrios Brooks, worked 100 hours a week rescuing and reconstructing the NNPA. When Ben came aboard, the NNPA News Service was delivered to the nation’s top Black newspapers by first-class mail. Ben and the multi-talented Raoul Dennis together transformed the nation’s Black press while I largely watched (and worked on my doctoral dissertation). Ben hired one of the most amazing women I’ve ever had the honor of knowing, Hazel Trice Edney—a crusading Black press reporter in the tradition of Ethel Payne—to be NNPA’s first fulltime Washington Correspondent in decades. (She is now the News Service’s Editor-in-Chief.)  Meanwhile, Adina did so much work keeping dozens of different tasks straight, Ben had to replace her with three people when she left. When Ben himself left, the News Service had a state-of-the-art Washington bureau at Howard University and covered breaking stories in print and online.

So take all that for what you will.

7 responses to “Benjamin Todd Jealous, the NNPA and the NAACP

  1. I’m a member of the NAACP and I’ve known Ben Jealous for many years. I taught Ben when he was a legendary student activist at Columbia University. He is exceptionally committed to social issues. He is also a Rhodes Scholar. I have closely followed his career over recent years. It is steeped in effective leadership around important social issues of the day. Having Ben as the President and CEO of the NAACP will be the best thing to have happened to the NAACP in years.

  2. Wow Dr. Burroughs!

    I agree that Ben is a Great candidate! I just didn’t realize that HE did all that by himself, or that Adina had to be replaced by three people! I recall there being other people who worked there at that time, shortly after Ben was hired, whose contributions were invaluable to the organization and its ablility to be solvent! Namely, myself and NNPA Media Services, which actually saved the organization and allowed it to create the great programs you mentioned. For the first time, NNPA was a group effort made up of several very talented people, not the least of which included Ben, Adina, Raoul, Daniella Gibbs, Bridgette LeBlanc, Diane Lynn who brought the order back to the membership rolls, and Tanya and Hewett Signor.

    I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and Ben’s strength, his biggest and greatest gift is being able to convince those with great talent, people with a vision, to share in his vision, and together create great and lasting change and improvement to organizations needing a breath of fresh air. Ben is not a Genie, but he is a good leader, and that is what he should be judged on.

    I for one, having worked closely with him, and bumping heads with him at times, have never lost respect for him, and I will be watching and crossing my fingers for him.


    Cheryl Mainor

  3. Thanks, Cheryl!

    Yes, you are correct on ALL these points! There are MANY people who helped to save NNPA.

    My needle is undoubtedly stuck on my memories, but that’s why we have blogs. 🙂 I hope more ex-NNPAers will comment here and elsewhere.

  4. Dr. Burroughs!

    I hope so too, because he can be a great asset to the NAACP. As I stated, his greatest gift is in attracting great talent. Especially young gifted people. As we are witnessing with Sen. Obama, and the “rebirth” of the Democratic Party, having the ability to attract young adults and get the interested in the NAACP, from my viewpoint, would be invaluable to the organization as a whole. Like the Democratic Party, it is on a course for extinction if new life is not breathed into it. And though I am of the generation that can see the relevancy and importance of it and what it does, (I am the last of the baby boomers) I often times hear younger adults saying it is irrelevant. By helping them make the connection to NAACP and themselves, it can continue on through the next century, and continue it’s legacy. I believe that Ben could be the right man to do it, he is a unique mixture of all the right stuff! I think that his experience at NNPA was significant, but I also think it’s important to categorize it correctly, and show what his real contribution was. The results speak for themselves! The challenges at the NAACP are more than one man or even two can conquer, it will take a very dedicated, and talented team to do it, and it will need someone like him, who has a big picture mentality, and the ability to pull it all together!

    Glad to see you are doing so well Todd! Keep on keeping on!


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