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Sherrilyn Ifill

Steven and Maureen Klinsky Visiting Professor of Practice for Leadership and Progress


Sherrilyn Ifill
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Sherrilyn Ifill is a civil rights lawyer and scholar. From 2013-2022, she served as the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the nation’s premier civil rights law organization fighting for racial justice and equality. She most recently served as a Senior Fellow at the Ford Foundation. In 2024 Ifill will become the inaugural Vernon L. Jordan Chair in Civil Rights at Howard Law School, where will become founding Director of the 14th Amendment Center for Law & Democracy.

Ifill 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 Ifill left LDF to join the faculty at University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore. Over twenty years, Ifill taught civil procedure and constitutional law to 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, an environmental justice offering, and a clinic on reparations. Ifill is also a prolific scholar who has published academic articles in leading law journals, and op-eds and commentaries in leading newspapers. Her 2008 book “On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century,” was highly acclaimed, and is credited with laying the foundation for contemporary conversations about lynching and reconciliation. A 10th anniversary edition of the book was recently released with a Foreword by Bryan Stevenson, the acclaimed lawyer and founder of the national lynching memorial in Montgomery, AL.

As the President & Director-Counsel at LDF, Ifill’s voice and analysis played a prominent role in shaping our national conversation about race and civil rights. She led the organization in groundbreaking litigation in the areas of voting rights, economic justice, and education, and took a prominent role in confronting police violence against unarmed Black people. Ifill raised the profile of LDF, growing the organization in staff, resources, and influence. Her strategic vision and counsel are highly sought after from leaders in government, business, law and academia. She continues to write scholarly articles and is currently completing a book about race and the current crisis in American democracy entitled, “Is This America?” which will be published by Penguin Press in 2024.

Ifill graduated from Vassar College with a B.A. in English and earned her J.D. from New York University School of Law. She is the recipient of numerous honorary doctorates and was named by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world in 2021. Ifill is a recipient of the Radcliffe Medal, the Brandeis Medal, the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association, and The Gold Medal from the New York State Bar Association. She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2019. Ifill serves on the board of the Mellon Foundation, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Board of Trustees of New York University School of Law.