Ben Jealous is a civil rights leader, community organizer, investor in startups for good, educator, former investigative journalist and a Rhodes Scholar who has spent his life bringing people together to get big things done.
He specializes in building diverse coalitions for change and holding government leaders accountable to the needs of everyday people.
Ben’s Maryland roots go back generations. His grandparents lived in Baltimore, where Ben’s grandfather worked on the B&O Canal and his grandmother at Planned Parenthood. Ben’s mother grew up in the McCulloh Homes public housing complex in West Baltimore and helped to integrate Western High School in 1954 as a member of the NAACP’s Youth and College Division. Ben’s father was one of a small number of white men jailed during the Congress of Racial Equality’s efforts to desegregate Baltimore’s downtown business district.
Ben grew up spending summers in West Baltimore and has lived in Maryland throughout his career as a civil rights leader and businessman.
Ben has extensive experience as a non-profit executive, serving as the past president of the Rosenberg Foundation, and the founding director of Amnesty International’s U.S. Domestic Human Rights Program.
At age 35, Ben was named the youngest ever President and CEO of the NAACP. Under Ben’s leadership, the NAACP underwent an unprecedented era of growth. Online activists grew from 175,000 to more than 600,000 while donors increased from 16,000 individuals per year to more than 120,000. The NAACP’s membership increased three years consecutively for the first time in 20 years under Ben’s leadership.
Ben used his background as a community organizer and executive to press the NAACP forward in expanding and protecting the civil rights of all Americans. The NAACP opened national programs focused on education, health and environmental justice and worked on issues related to the economy and voting rights.
In 2013, Ben was named Marylander of the Year by the Baltimore Sun because of the role he played in leading the effort to abolish the death penalty, helping assure the effort to pass marriage equality was successful, chairing the effort to pass the DREAM Act, and expand voting rights.
Throughout his NAACP tenure, Ben worked with governors from California to Iowa, developing plans to help end mass incarceration and expand civil rights, and helped to pass numerous landmark pieces of legislation during President Obama’s first term in office.
As a community organizer Ben helped lead successful campaigns to abolish the death penalty for children, stop Mississippi’s governor from turning a public historically black university into a prison, and pass federal legislation against prison rape.
While working as a journalist in Mississippi, Ben’s investigations were credited with helping save the life of a white inmate who was being threatened for helping convict corrupt prison guards, free a black small farmer who was being framed for arson, and spur official investigations into law enforcement corruption.
Ben currently works as an investor for Kapor Capital, an investment firm that invests in companies working to create progressive social change. At Kapor, Ben manages the firm’s Baltimore office where he has invested in several Maryland companies working to make our state stronger.
Ben is a graduate of Columbia and Oxford University and comes from a long line of activists. He is also the proud father of two children who attend public schools.