Ben Jealous

President of People for the American Way

Professor of Practice

Ben Jealous is President of People for the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania where he teaches leadership and social entrepreneurship. 

Ben served as the 17th President of the NAACP from 2008-2013. He was the youngest person ever appointed to lead America's oldest, largest, and most impactful civil rights organization. He led the unparalleled institution through a period of growth not seen in decades. 

Under Ben's leadership the NAACP played critical roles in electing and re-electing president Obama, securing LGBTQ marriage equality in multiple states, repelling state-level assaults on voting rights throughout the South and Midwest, passing the DREAM Act in Maryland, reducing the prison populations of Georgia and Texas, and abolishing the death penalty in six states in five years.

As a young organizer in Mississippi, Ben was trained by Dr. James Anderson an ally and former college classmate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Dr. Anderson taught Ben the secret MLK taught him for transforming a democracy: "If you are comfortable in your coalition, your coalition is too small."

That lesson has been at the heart of Ben's work for more than a quarter century. Along the way he has not only worked with noted human rights leaders like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Stacey Abrams to help bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice. He has also worked with noted conservatives Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist to forge bi-partisan consensus to end mass incarceration and Republican governors from California to Virginia to win critical civil rights victories for formerly incarcerated people. 

A best-selling author and compelling storyteller, Ben's next book will be published by Harper Collins in December 2022. Entitled, "Never Forget Our People Were Always Free: A Parable of American Healing". It draws lessons from his ancestor's roles in leading America towards brighter horizons from the American Revolution through the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement as well as Ben's ongoing work today.  

A successful social impact investor, Ben has helped build more than two-dozen start-ups seeking to solve tough social problems. Two of them--Honor and Aspiration--are valued at more than 1 billion dollars. A third is expected to achieve unicorn status soon. 

A former Rhodes Scholar, Ben is a graduate of Columbia and Oxford Universities and public and parochial grade schools. He has taught at Ivy League universities for more than half a decade, is a former trustee of Morehouse College, and has given guest lectures at dozens of universities.

A proud father of two, Ben is raising his children in Maryland--the same state that once forbade his parents to marry in his mother's family church in Baltimore because his mother is Black, and his father is White.