Cornell William Brooks is the 18th president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). A civil rights attorney, social justice advocate, and ordained minister, Brooks upholds the mission of the NAACP to secure political, educational, social and economic equality for all Americans. His vision is an NAACP that is multiracial, multiethnic, and multigenerational.
A graduate of Head Start and Yale Law School, Brooks considers himself “an heir” of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Born in El Paso, Texas, and raised in Georgetown, South Carolina, he earned a B.A. with honors in political science from Jackson State University, a Master of Divinity from Boston University School of Theology, where he was a Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholar; and a J.D. from Yale Law School, where he served as senior editor of the Yale Law Journal and member of the Yale Law and Policy Review.
Brooks served a judicial clerkship with then-Chief Judge Sam J. Ervin III on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. He also worked as a staff attorney for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and as Executive Director of the Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington. In 1998, honoring his grandfather’s 1946 bid for Congress, Brooks ran as the Democratic nominee for Congress for Virginia’s 10th District – advocating for public education, affordable healthcare, and fiscal responsibility.
Immediately prior to joining the NAACP, Brooks led the Newark-based New Jersey Institute for Social Justice as president and CEO. During his tenure there, the Institute passed a constitutional amendment, bail reform, “Ban the Box,” foreclosure reform, and prison re-entry legislation, which The New York Times hailed as “a model for the rest of the nation.” Brooks also produced an award-winning documentary on criminal justice.
Mr. Brooks is CMC's 2017 MLK Commemorative Speaker and his talk is co-sponsored by the President's Leadership Fund.