Monday, March 27, 2017

Vanita Gupta continues her fight for justice and civil rights

HOORAY! Vanita Gupta is back. The former head of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division is the new leader of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a 67-year-old organization sometimes described as the lobbying arm of the civil rights movement.

She was named the next president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Thursday (March 21). Later this year, she will succeed Wade Henderson, who has served as president and CEO since 1996 and helped grow the organization into a coalition of more than 200 civil and human rights groups.


Vanita Gupta
“Civil and human rights work has never been easy, and these unprecedented times demand a clarity of vision, strategy, and solidarity that the Leadership Conference coalition is uniquely positioned to champion," said Gupta. "I am honored and humbled to take on this essential work to guarantee that justice and equality apply to every individual as we struggle to be a more perfect union and remain a beacon for hope in the world.”

Gupta will hold the titles of president and CEO of both organizations and officially assume the roles on June 1, 2017. She most recently served in President Obama’s administration as the head of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice. 

She will succeed Wade Henderson, who has served as president and CEO since June 1996. Henderson, one of the pre-eminent civil and human rights leaders of the last 40 years, announced in November 2015 his intention to step down after the selection of a successor.

William Robinson, chair of The Leadership Conference Education Fund board, said Gupta, 42, represents the “next generation” of civil rights leaders.


“As the first woman and first child of immigrants to serve as the leader of this organization, Vanita Gupta’s selection marks a turning point in civil rights history,” Robinson said. “The civil and human rights coalition is in very good hands.”

Gupta will hold the titles of president and CEO of both organizations and officially assume the roles on June 1, 2017. She most recently served in President Obama’s administration as the head of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice. 

She will succeed Wade Henderson, who has served as president and CEO since June 1996. Henderson, one of the pre-eminent civil and human rights leaders of the last 40 years, announced in November 2015 his intention to step down after the selection of a successor.

William Robinson, chair of The Leadership Conference Education Fund board, said Gupta, 42, represents the “next generation” of civil rights leaders.

“As the first woman and first child of immigrants to serve as the leader of this organization, Vanita Gupta’s selection marks a turning point in civil rights history,” Robinson said. “The civil and human rights coalition is in very good hands.”

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Born in Philadelphia, Gupta is the daughter of Indian immigrants and spent much of her early childhood in England and France, where her father worked as a business manager for a multinational chemical company.

Gupta began her career as a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In addition to her work with the ACLU and NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Gupta has taught civil rights litigation and advocacy clinics at New York University School of Law since 2008. She received a B.A., magna cum laude, from Yale University and J.D. from New York University School of Law.

Obama appointed Gupta as principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in October 2014, where she served until January. As the nation’s chief civil rights prosecutor during one of the division’s highest profile and most productive eras, Gupta oversaw a wide range of criminal and civil enforcement efforts to ensure equal justice and protect equal opportunity for all.

Gupta focused the division on advancing constitutional policing and criminal justice reform; prosecuting hate crimes and human trafficking; promoting disability rights and protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals; and ensuring voting rights for all. She prioritized combatting discrimination in education, housing, employment, lending, and religious exercise. During her tenure, she oversaw federal investigations of the Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore, and Chicago police departments; the lawsuit against North Carolina’s discriminatory H.B. 2; and the successful appeals of the Texas and North Carolina voter ID cases.


“Throughout her career, Vanita has pushed our nation to live up to its promise of equal justice for all," said former Attorney General Eric Holder. "Her fearless advocacy for the rights of all Americans, while at the helm of the Civil Rights Division, proves that she will be able to lead the important coalition of the Leadership Conference member organizations. Vanita’s ability to bridge divides and build coalitions to drive progress will enable her to build on Wade Henderson’s incredible legacy.”


“At a time when our nation’s ideals and progress are being threatened in such fundamental ways, The Leadership Conference is a vital nerve center of the broad swath of civil and human rights organizations that are fighting for justice, fairness, and equality around the country,” Gupta said.
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