The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund has announced the first ever cohort of the Marshall-Motley Scholars Program (MMSP) according to a press release sent to Blavity.

The program, named in honor of the legendary civil rights attorney and LDF founder Thurgood Marshall, and iconic civil rights litigator Constance Baker Motley, was created to help support the next generation of civil rights lawyers in the southern U.S.

“We are thrilled to welcome the inaugural cohort of the Marshall-Motley Scholars Program into the LDF family and to assist in their development as civil rights attorneys who will advance the rights of Black people in the United States well into the future. Our first 10 Scholars are brilliant, dedicated leaders eager to serve the communities of the South,” Janai Nelson, LDF’s Associate Director-Counsel wrote in a statement to Blavity. 

The scholars selected for this opportunity will receive full scholarships for law school, including tuition, room and board, and incidentals. They will also be placed with national and regional civil rights organizations in the south for summer internships to jumpstart their training in civil rights law. After graduation they’ll complete two-year postgraduate fellowships at civil rights law organizations in the South fighting to achieve racial justice, as well as access to special trainings over the course of the program that will help them to become the next generation of civil rights lawyer fighting for racial justice in the U.S.v

Video shows Nelson, President and Director-Counsel of the LDF Sherrilyn Ifill and other LDF leaders delivering news to young recipients that they're been selected for the program. 

According to Nelson, “One of the key aspects of the MMSP is the elimination of financial barriers for our Scholars by fully covering the cost of law school and attendant expenses. This is a vital step in enabling our Scholars to pursue their careers as civil rights advocates unencumbered by the mounting student debt crisis in this country, while also providing them professional development experiences to equip them to become impactful civil rights lawyers."

This cohort will be the first of several. Over the next five years, the LDF plans to invest in the training and careers of 50 such civil rights attorneys, in order to better advocate on behalf of Black communities in the South who are still seeking racial justice and equity.

In a statement to Blavity, Ifill stressed the importance of launching the program now.

"The MMSP launched at just the right moment in our history, as the rights of Black people in the U.S. and the power our communities have amassed have come under renewed attack," she wrote. "As we have seen over the last several months, our democracy requires vigilant protection, particularly for Black communities in the South, which have yet to realize the full and unqualified protection of this nation’s laws and ideals. The inaugural MMSP cohort, and those that will follow it, will play a key role in addressing these constantly evolving threats to democracy and justice.”

The LDF is holding a special press conference on Monday at 11 a.m. ET to announce the inaugural cohort of the Marshall-Motley Scholars Program and celebrate the 67th anniversary of the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education decision.