Black leaders in the late twentieth century couldn’t have known how prophetic Sam Cooke’s classic A Change Is Gonna Come would be for the NAACP, the civil rights organization that W.E.B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells helped launch in 1909 to crusade against Black lynching. After a yearlong search, the NAACP has announced the appointment of Benjamin Todd Jealous as its new president, according to the Washington Post.

Ben Jealous has spent his professional life working for and raising money for the very social justice concerns for which the NAACP advocates, NAACP Chairman Julian Bond said in a statement: “He is a perfect match. We are looking forward to a great future under his leadership.”

The group’s 64-member board introduced Jealous at its national headquarters in Baltimore on Saturday. The 35-year-old Jealous will assume his post September 1, making him the youngest leader to ever helm the organization.

This changing of the guard comes after the NAACP made a concerted effort to alter its traditional selection of political and religious leaders with the appointment of telecommunications executive Bruce Gordon three years ago. In June 2005, Gordon resigned after he and the NAACP board reportedly disagreed on whether the group should develop more humanitarian efforts rather than continue to pursue its civil rights mission.

A Rhodes Scholar who was educated at Oxford University and Columbia University, Jealous has served as president of the San Francisco-based Rosenberg Foundation, which advocates for immigrants and working-class families. The activist is also a former news executive: He was executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, an organization that includes approximately 200 Black newspapers; and he was managing editor of the Jackson Advocate, a Black newspaper in Mississippi.

Jealous’s enthusiasm rivals that of NAACP Chairman Bond. He told the Associated Press, “I think that itís a real affirmation that this organization is willing to invest in the future, to invest in the ideas and the leadership of the generation that is currently raising Black children in this country.”

Credit: AP Photos