MAKERS Profile

Sherrilyn Ifill

President & Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense Fund

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Sherrilyn Ifill talks about her career as an African American lawyer, becoming the 7th President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and advocating for equality and diversity.
Sherrilyn Ifill is the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the nation's premier civil rights legal organization. Sherrilyn is the second woman to lead the organization.   She began her career as a Fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union, before joining the staff of the LDF as an Assistant Counsel in 1988, where she litigated voting rights cases for five years.   In 1993, Sherrilyn left LDF to join University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore. For twenty years, Sherrilyn taught thousands of law students, and pioneered a series of law clinics, including one of the earliest law clinics in the country focused on challenging legal barriers to the reentry of ex-offenders. Sherrilyn also was a prolific scholar, publishing academic articles in leading law journals, and op-eds and commentaries in leading newspapers. Her 2007 book “On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century,” was a widely acclaimed, and urgent call for a conversation about lynching in the U.S.   In 2013, Sherrilyn was invited back to the Legal Defense Fund to lead the organization as its 7th Director-Counsel. In that role, Sherrilyn has increased the visibility and engagement of the organization in cutting edge and urgent civil rights issues, while maintaining the organization’s decades-long leadership fighting voter suppression, inequity in education, and racial discrimination in application of the death penalty. She is a sought-after speaker and strategist whose counsel is sought by government officials, civic and community leaders, and national civil rights colleagues.   Sherrilyn currently serves on the global board of the Open Society Foundations, and on the board of Equal Justice Works, the National Women’s Law Center and the National Constitution Center.