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35-year-old chosen to lead NAACP
From Roland Martin CNN Contributor
UPDATED: 12:48 PM EDT 05.17.08
 
The NAACP has chosen Ben Jealous as its new president after a contentious debate that lasted long into the night, members of its board of directors said Saturday.

Jealous, 35, will be the youngest president in the NAACP's 99-year history, The Associated Press reported.

When the 34-21 vote was announced, "no one clapped or celebrated," one board member said after the meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.

Jealous was the only finalist presented by the search committee to the full board for consideration. Some board members wanted to hear from two others whom the search committee identified as finalists, but Jealous' supporters prevented it, sources said.

Jealous steps into a challenging role.

"There are a small number of groups to whom all black people in this country owe a debt of gratitude, and the NAACP is one of them," Jealous told AP before the vote. "There is work that is undone ... the need continues and our children continue to be at great risk in this country."

Sources said Jealous, a former newspaper editor and director of an Amnesty International division, was the only finalist for the post of president, vacant for more than a year. He was the primary choice of board Chairman Julian Bond, sources said.

He replaces Bruce Gordon, a retired Verizon executive who quit in March 2007, citing friction with Bond and the group's 64-member board. Gordon said he was also unhappy with the direction of the NAACP, the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization.

Jealous is president of the California-based Rosenberg Foundation, and before that he directed the U.S. human rights program for Amnesty International.

In the mid-1990s, Jealous was the managing editor of the Jackson Advocate, the oldest black newspaper in Mississippi. He was later the executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a federation of more than 200 black community papers.

Jealous began his career as an organizer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund,working on health care issues, the NAACP said.

Jealous, a native of California, is a graduate of Columbia University and Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, the NAACP said.

He told AP that many in his generation have a false sense of progress in racial equality.

"Those of us who are 45 and younger were told, 'The struggle has been won. Go out and flourish. Don't worry about the movement,"' he told AP.


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