WASHINGTON — Benjamin Jealous, the president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Sunday that he plans to step down by the end of the year.
The Baltimore-based NAACP is the nation’s largest civil rights organization. When Jealous was hired as its president in 2008 at age 35, he became the youngest leader in the group’s history. Over the past five years, the group said its rosters of online activists and donors have grown exponentially.
In a written statement Sunday, Jealous said he plans to pursue teaching at a university and wants to spend time with his young family.
“The NAACP has always been the largest civil rights organization in the streets, and today it is also the largest civil rights organization online, on mobile and at the ballot box too,” Jealous said. “I am proud to leave the association financially sound, sustainable, focused, and more powerful than ever.”
Jealous plans to step down on Dec. 31. His departure plans were first reported by USA Today.
Jealous’s father was raised in Maine and graduated from Deering High School in Portland.
Jealous is credited with improving the NAACP’s finances and donor base over the past five years and for improving its outreach. The group said its donors have increased from 16,000 people giving each year to more than 132,000.
During his tenure, the NAACP also has embraced gay marriage rights in a historic vote to endorse same-sex marriage as a civil right in May 2012. “Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law,” the group said, citing the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
Jealous told The Associated Press recently that a broader coalition is needed to fight the civil rights battles of the 21st century.
“Last century we needed lawyers; this century we need big, broad coalitions,” he said. “When extremists decide to attack all our communities, they must hope that there will be infighting. But we have stood all for one and one for all. That is how we will win.”
NAACP Chairman Roslyn Brock accepted Jealous’ resignation in the past week. She said the group would continue its fight to restore part of the Voting Rights Act, as well as boosting its civic engagement efforts and ensuring that black Americans are able to obtain health insurance under the nation’s health care overhaul.