The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) has announced the inaugural 10-person cohort of the Marshall Motley-Scholars Program. Launched in January (2021), the pipeline program aims to equip the South with the next generation of civil rights lawyers trained to provide legal advocacy of unparalleled excellence. 

The groundbreaking program is named in honor of Thurgood Marshall, the trailblazing Supreme Court justice, legendary civil rights attorney, and LDF founder; and Constance Baker Motley, the iconic civil rights litigator and first Black woman to serve as a federal judge.

Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF President and Director-Counsel noted that the program is timely, citing renewed attacks on the rights of Black people and communities in the U.S. “As we have seen over the last several months, our democracy requires vigilant protection, particularly for Black communities in the South, which have yet to realize the full and unqualified protection of this nation’s laws and ideals,” she said. The cohort and those that will follow, Ifill added, will play a key role in addressing “threats to democracy and justice,” while carrying on the legacies of Marshall, Baker Motley and the many “unsung heroes of civil rights advocacy.”

The LDF team said it received hundreds of applications and had the difficult task of whittling down that number to the 10 “stellar” scholars selected. Over the next five years, the program will invest in the education and training of 50 aspiring civil rights attorneys to advocate on behalf of Black communities in the South seeking racial justice and equity. Scholars will be afforded a full law school scholarship for tuition, room and board, and incidentals to alleviate the debt burden that can prevent future lawyers from pursuing a career as a civil rights attorney; summer internships with national and regional civil rights organizations with offices in the South focused on racial justice to jumpstart training in civil rights law; a two-year postgraduate fellowship at civil rights law organizations in the South fighting to achieve racial justice; and access to special trainings sponsored by LDF and the National Academy of Sciences.

Each of the 10 Scholars is either from the South or was raised in the region. They each have pledged to devote the first eight years of their career to practicing civil rights law in service of Black communities in the South. The first-ever Marshall-Motley Scholars and their hometowns are as follows:

Dominique Erney, Gainesville, Florida

Ashley Fox, Nashville, Tennessee

Briana Hayes, Baxley, Georgia

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Princess Jefferson, Houston, Texas

Kendell Long, Dallas, Texas

Victor Olofin, Loxahatchee, Florida

Markus Reneau, New Orleans, Louisiana

Traelon Rodgers, Dallas, Texas

Shandrea Sellers, Montgomery, Alabama

Maydrian Strozier-Lowe, St. Louis, Missouri