NAACP President Benjamin Jealous To Address Pitt’s Center on Race and Social Problems Celebration June 7

Issue Date: 
May 14, 2012
Benjamin JealousBenjamin Jealous

Pitt’s Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP) has devoted the last decade to bringing to the forefront countless social issues—ranging from discrimination in hiring to racial profiling—through research, major national conferences, summer institutes for social work professionals, and two popular lecture series featuring speakers from across the United States.

CRSP, based in Pitt’s School of Social Work, will celebrate its 10th anniversary from 5 to 8 p.m. June 7 in Pitt’s Alumni Hall. The free public event will feature a keynote address by Benjamin Jealous, the 17th president and CEO of the NAACP. Jealous’ talk is titled “Trayvon Martin: Racial Profiling and the Urgent Need to Heal America.” The doors open at 5 p.m., and the program is from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. A reception follows the program. Those wishing to attend the event are asked to RSVP to

CRSP was founded in 2002 by Pitt School of Social Work Dean and Donald M. Henderson Professor Larry E. Davis to conduct and then disseminate race-related research and to mentor emerging scholars. It focuses on race-related social problems in seven key areas—economic disparities; educational disparities; health; interracial group relations; mental health; criminal justice; and youth, families, and the elderly.

In its first 10 years, CRSP’s many achievements include:

• Hosting the 2010 national “Race in America” conference, where solutions were proposed for some of society’s most pressing race-related problems;

• Launching in 2009 the groundbreaking academic journal Race and Social Problems, a multidisciplinary periodical with articles that address race and its relationship to today’s psychological, cultural, and socioeconomic problems;

• Hosting a major national conference in 2004, “Fifty Years After Brown: New Solutions for Segregation and Academic Underachievement,” with the goal of mapping a blueprint for tackling academic underachievement in the nation’s inner-city schools;

• Evaluating the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative and determining that providing services to Allegheny County Jail inmates while they are incarcerated and after their release dramatically reduces recidivism;

• Creating graduate courses that have taken students to Cuba, Paris, and London to study firsthand those regions’ race issues;

• Offering summer institutes at Pitt to social workers, foundation leaders, and other professionals on topics ranging from gun violence to the involvement of  Black parents in public education; and

• Inviting experts from across the United States to participate in CRSP’s free public lecture series in the spring and fall.

From his early days of organizing voter registration drives through his service as president and CEO of the NAACP, Jealous has been motivated by civic duty and a constant need to improve the lives of America’s underrepresented.

As a student at Columbia University, he worked in Harlem as a community organizer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. On campus, Jealous led schoolwide movements, including boycotts and pickets for homeless rights and a successful campaign to save full-need financial aid. These protests ultimately led to the suspension of Jealous and three other student leaders. Jealous used this time off to work as a field organizer helping to lead a campaign that prevented the State of Mississippi from closing two of its three public historically Black universities and converting one of them into a prison. He remained in Mississippi to take a job at the Jackson Advocate, an African American newspaper based in the state’s capital. His reporting was credited with exposing corruption among high-ranking officials at the state prison in Parchman. His investigations also helped to acquit a small Black farmer who had been wrongfully accused of arson.

In 1997, Jealous returned to Columbia University and completed his degree in political science. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he earned a master’s degree in comparative social research.

During his career, Jealous also has served as president of the Rosenberg Foundation, director of the U.S. Human Rights Program at Amnesty International, and executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a federation of more than 200 Black community newspapers. He has been president and CEO of the NAACP since 2008.