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Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

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Information about Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

Profile image of Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Nonprofit Chief Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Green
Favorite Food:
Greens
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Dominican Republic
Favorite Quote:
Freedom Is A Constant Struggle.

Birthplace

Born:
1/22/1948
Birth Location:
Oxford, North Carolina

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Nonprofit Chief Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Green
Favorite Food:
Greens
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Dominican Republic
Favorite Quote:
Freedom Is A Constant Struggle.

Birthplace

Born:
1/22/1948
Birth Location:
Oxford
See how Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Jr, was born on January 22, 1948, in Oxford, North Carolina. Chavis's parents were educators who taught at a school for African American orphans. Chavis’s activism was in his bloodline; his grandfather, John Chavis, the first black graduate from Princeton University, set up an underground school for African Americans who were forbidden to learn to read and write. Chavis became active in civil rights at the young age of thirteen when he attempted to integrate the all white library in his hometown; although he was ultimately unable to check out any books, he was the first African American to obtain a library card and to attempt to borrow books. Chavis graduated from Mary Potter High School in 1965 where he was a member of the football team and editor of the school newspaper. While a high school student Chavis also wrote for the local black paper, The Carolinian.

While a freshman at Saint Augustine College, Chavis served as a youth coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and on the advance team for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Chavis received his B.S. degree in chemistry in 1969 from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. That same year, Chavis was appointed Southern regional program director of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice (UCC-CRJ). In 1971, the UCC sent Chavis to Wilmington, North Carolina, to help desegregate the public school system. A year later Chavis and the now famed Wilmington Ten were arrested and falsely convicted of conspiracy and arson; after serving nearly a decade in prison and receiving international attention the charges were eventually overturned in 1980. While in prison Chavis wrote two books: An American Political Prisoner and Psalms from Prison.

In 1980, Chavis received his Master’s of Divinity degree from Duke University and went on to earn his Doctorate of Ministry from Howard University. In 1985, Chavis was named executive director of UCC and CEO of the UCC-CRJ; in 1993 he became the youngest person to serve as executive director and CEO of the NAACP. After leaving the NAACP in 1994, Chavis served as executive director of the National African American Leadership Summit. In 1995, Chavis was appointed National Director of the Million Man March, one of the most successful gatherings of the 20th century. Chavis was later named East Coast Regional Minister of the Nation of Islam and organized the Million Family March in 2000. In 2001, along with Russell Simmons, Chavis co-founded the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, a coalition of hip-hop artists and community leaders dedicated to fighting the war on poverty and injustice.

See how Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.'s interview, session 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes his mother's occupation and her personality
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about his mother's education and her training to become a teacher
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about his family's efforts to find the gravesite of his ancestor John Chavis
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. traces the history of landownership on both sides of his family
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about how his family observed holidays during his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about his childhood activities in Oxford, North Carolina
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about the community of Oxford, North Carolina where he grew up
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes the communities of Oxford, North Carolina from his childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes his siblings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes his experiences at Angier B. Duke Elementary School in Oxford, North Carolina
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes his favorite subjects and activities during his elementary school years in Oxford, North Carolina
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about the people that influenced him as a teenager
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about trying to integrate his town's library at the age of twelve, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about trying to integrate his town's library at the age of twelve, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about trying to integrate his town's library at the age of twelve, pt. 3
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about the aftermath of his attempted integration of the Richard H. Thornton Library in Oxford, North Carolina
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about his freshman year of high school at Freedman High School in Lenoir, North Carolina
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes his experiences at Mary Potter High School in Oxford, North Carolina
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about the growth of his activist beliefs during high school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes his experiences at St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about how his membership in SCLC and the NAACP shaped him as a young activist
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. recalls his parents' reactions to his activism during his time at St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about his reaction to the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about his civil rights activism after Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. reflects on his beliefs about martyrdom in the context of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. reflects on various activist groups' tactics for social change
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about how he trained to become a minister in the United Church of Christ
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes a conflict with the Ku Klux Klan in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1971
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about his arrest as part of the Wilmington Ten in 1972, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about the history of racial strife in Wilmington, North Carolina
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about his arrest as part of the Wilmington Ten in 1972, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about spending six months in jail while waiting to stand trial in Wilmington, North Carolina
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. recalls the explosion of his car while he waited to stand trial in Wilmington, North Carolina
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. remembers his sentencing as a member of the Wilmington Ten
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about adjusting to life in prison after being jailed in 1972
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about his correspondence as a political prisoner in North Carolina
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes his efforts to appeal his prison sentence during the 1970s
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. remembers using nonviolent protest to improve conditions at Central Prison in Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Slating of Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.'s interview, session 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about the Wilmington Ten beginning their prison sentences in 1972
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes Central Prison in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1972
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about the murder of a prisoner, John Cutino, during December 1972
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes protesting for improved conditions at Central Prison in Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about the outcome of protests after the murder of John Cutino at Central Prison in Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about the appeals process throughout the 1970s to free the Wilmington Ten from prison
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes studying at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina during his imprisonment
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about the successful campaign to free the Wilmington Ten
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about his efforts with the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice to fight environmental racism
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about deciding to run for executive director of the NAACP in 1993
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. recalls his election as the youngest executive director of the NAACP in 1993
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about his activism as executive director of the NAACP
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. responds to charges of mismanagement and sexual harassment during his tenure as executive director of the NAACP
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about his relationship with HistoryMaker The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about the controversy over the 30th Anniversary March on Washington in 1993
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about his efforts to end gang violence
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes his impressions of the Nation of Islam
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about his role in arranging the Million Man March in 1995
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. reflects on the legacy of the Million Man March in 1995
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about his decision to join the Nation of Islam
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes his leadership roles within the Nation of Islam
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. talks about his work as a co-founder of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes the goals of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network
  • Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. gives his perspective on the controversies associated with hip hop culture
  • Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. reflects upon what he learned in prison as one of the Wilmington Ten
  • Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. narrates his photographs