Washington D.C.

Thurgood Marshall Institute, Director, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational, Fund

The Organization

Founded in 1940 by Thurgood Marshall, the Legal Defense Fund has been advancing racial justice for Black communities for over 80 years. LDF’s mission is to use the power of law, narrative, research, and people to defend and advance the full dignity and citizenship of Black people in America. LDF’s vision is to imagine and build a multi-racial, multi-ethnic democracy where dignity is sacred, power is shared, and thriving in the standard. We execute on our mission and vision through four program areas: criminal justice, economic justice, education, and political participation. In each of these areas, we seek to unlock the full power of the law by combining litigation, policy, education, research, strategic communications, and community organizing. In our effort to ensure our key initiatives are drawing on the full power of our many tools, we are seeking a leader for the revised role of Director of the Thurgood Marshall Institute (the “Institute” or “TMI”).

The Institute is an interdisciplinary think thank within LDF that is essential to LDF’s comprehensive approach to protecting and expanding civil rights in the United States. Launched in 2015, the Institute complements LDF’s traditional litigation strengths and brings critical capabilities to the fight for racial justice including through cutting-edge research, public education programs, internal thought partnership, and our historic Archives, a distinctive collection of materials chronicling the legal history of the Civil Rights Movement.  The Institute integrates cutting-edge research and innovative thinking to inform, elevate and frame the litigation and policy work of LDF, and contributes to targeted advocacy campaigns to inform remedies and strategies for specific civil rights challenges.

Position Overview

The Director of the Institute will report to the President and Director-Counsel (PDC) and the Associate Director-Counsel (ADC) and is expected to model and uphold the highest ideals of LDF and represent the organization as a leader with external and internal stakeholders, media, and various audiences. The Director will support the work of LDF and help elevate, shape, and frame the narrative of the modern civil rights movement by providing critical research collaboration and advocacy. The Director will manage a team comprised of professionals, including senior researchers, archivists, and renowned institute fellows. The Director will be responsible for formulating the strategic plan for the Institute in concert with the President and Director-Counsel, Associate Director-Counsel, other members of the program team, and leadership of the Archives.


  • Conduct and/or oversee multidisciplinary research projects and provide thought leadership to support and shape current work and provide insight on emerging civil rights issues;
  • Grow the Scholars and Fellows in Residence Program to strengthen relationships with legal scholars and social scientists on evolving scholarship on race as well as to develop new advocacy approaches;
  • Report to the PDC and ADC and collaborate with the Director of Policy Director of Litigation, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Director of Organizing and Chief Communications and Marketing Officer on the development and execution of the Institute’s strategic plan;
  • Develop and/or supervise the development of and strategic distribution plan for research-based publications and communications to shape and frame the narrative on critical civil rights matters;
  • Convene civil rights leaders, scholars, and subject matter experts through the Institute’s Labs—internal and external — and conferences and convenings to examine and deepen the discourse surrounding emerging civil rights issues;
  • Manage a team of professional archivists and institutional historians and provide leadership in advancing an ambitious public-facing archives initiative, defining, and prioritizing the requests for information, and managing the review, protection, and confidentiality of sensitive materials. Enhance the operational infrastructure and be an effective manager of the people and the Institute. Bring management acumen and the ability to recruit, lead, develop and empower staff;
  • Work in collaboration with the PDC and Director of Development to identify and advance fundraising efforts to support the needs of the Institute;
  • Work collaboratively with LDF senior leadership as both a thought leader and peer manager in support of the broader LDF mission;
  • Cultivate and maintain relationships with donors, allied organizations, grassroots activists, policymakers, media, etc.;
  • Seek out and engage in public speaking and appearances to heighten LDF’s visibility and brand;
  • Model and drive the program operating principles with initiative teams;
  • Bring updates to the Senior Leadership Team meetings and prepared key conversations for monthly program roundtable discussions;
  • Routinely assess progress across initiatives and make recommendations for changes from plan based on lessons learned and changes in external environment;
  • Incubate ideas for new initiatives;
  • Create agendas and drives collaboration within the Senior Leadership Team on any cross-departmental implications;
  • Partner with ADC and Chief of Staff to conduct annual planning;
  • Partner with CDO to help message the projects to funders and potential funders to raise critical funds;
  • Partner with CFO to set budget and track team’s time and budget against goals;
  • Partner with COO to ensure strong operational and cross-functional collaboration;
  • Ensure the coordination of jurisdictional relationship building and outreach hire for and/or internally resource cross-functional teams;
  • Anticipate/remove roadblocks to progress;
  • Engage heads of program in the key conversations and decisions; and
  • Other responsibilities as assigned.


  • Entrepreneurial, mission-first leader with a proven ability to lead via influence vs authority;
  • Demonstrate ability to think strategically, set clear priorities and objectives, and achieve tangible, measurable outcomes;
  • Commitment to the racial justice mission of LDF;
  • Proven people leader with the ability to balance organizational needs with team needs, coach and provide feedback for improved performance, and navigate difficult employee situations;
  • Strong time management and project management discipline;
  • Natural collaborator who embraces partnership with LDF’s Senior Leadership Team, including the Chief of Operations, Chief Financial Officer, Chief of Communications & Marketing Officer, and Chief Development Officer to build the infrastructure, processes, messaging, and funding necessary to fully unleash the work, team, and brand;
  • Ability to manage up and across to set expectations for team and pace of progress;
  • Can nimbly adapt to change when necessary;
  • Proactively seeks to internally educate leaders and staff on initiatives and impact;
  • Seeks out and willingly embraces opportunities to advance public awareness of the work;
  • Ability to create and oversee complex budgets and direct and supervise the fiscal aspects of the work as needed.

This is not an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties, skills, efforts or requirements or working conditions associated with the job. While this is intended to be an accurate reflection of the current job, management reserves the right to revise the job or to require that other or different tasks be performed as assigned. This description does not constitute a contract of employment and LDF may exercise its employment-at-will rights at any time.

Please note that LDF requires all employees to be fully vaccinated, including a booster shot against COVID-19 as a condition of employment. Accordingly, successful candidates must be fully vaccinated, including the booster shot against COVID-19, and submit proof of vaccination prior to the commencement of employment unless they qualify for a reasonable accommodation for bona fide medical or religious reasons.

How To Apply

This position is open until filled.

Please submit your resume and cover letter to:


If submitting via email, please include your name (last name, first name) in the email subject line.


Human Resources Department

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

40 Rector Street, 5th floor

New York, New York 10006

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