MAKERS Profile

Sherrilyn Ifill

President & Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense Fund

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Sherrilyn Ifill is a civil rights lawyer who’s spent her career making sure black votes matter and fighting for a judicial system that is color blind. She litigated a voting rights case before the Supreme Court at the young age of 28 and today is the President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Why She's a MAKER: Voting rights. Police brutality. Judicial ethics. The legacy of institutional racism. Many of the hot-button topics in debate today are issues Ifill has taken a lead on as the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Her expertise in these areas makes her a go-to commentator on TV and a prominent voice in effecting change. (It's also a family trait: The late journalist Gwen Ifill is her cousin.) 

Nevertheless, She Persisted: After graduating from law school, Ifill was ready for the courts, but they weren't ready for her. "I didn't sound like what they expected. I didn't look the way they expected. So, I'd give the judges a minute... I could see the moment when it clicked and they were now paying attention to me."
Her Big Mission: Ifill sees her role at the NAACP as more than just a paycheck. "I've been given a window into seeing the fault lines, the parts of the democracy that are weak, and my job is to make them stronger."
Doing What's Right, Not What's Easy: Ifill doesn't shy away from the tough challenges. "We are undergoing tremendous change in the country. We have to be real grown-up citizens and figure out what our role will be moving this country forward. That's never fun. The civil rights movement started the same way. The country had to see itself."

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