The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) is the litigation and legal policy affiliate of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). LDF uses strategic litigation and legal advocacy to advance a left-of-center agenda focused on issues related to African American and ethnic minority interests. 
The NAACP LDF was founded as a part of the NAACP in 1940 by civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall, who would later serve as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. In 1957, LDF became a separate entity, but it remains closely affiliated with the NAACP.
Early in its history, the LDF advocated for the desegregation of public schools and the overturn of the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision, which legalized “separate but equal” segregation laws. The organization’s advocacy and litigation resulted in the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, which overturned the previous Plessy decision and segregation precedent. Afterwards, intense opposition to the ruling resulted in the LDF filing and litigating several more lawsuits in order to enforce the new Brown standard.
The organization later played a role in advocating for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Modern Legal Campaigns
Since its initial court victories, the LDF has taken a further leftward bent towards what it deems “racial justice, equality and an inclusive society,” focusing its litigation on liberal economic policies and left-wing criminal justice reform.
LDF has litigated other major Supreme Court cases such as Furman v. Georgia (1972), which challenged the constitutionality of the death penalty on the grounds of racial bias, leading to temporary halt of the practice and Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (2016), which upheld the university’s affirmative action “race-conscious admissions program” for applying students.
Starbucks “Racial Bias Training”
As of July 2018, Heather McGhee of Demos and Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund served as curriculum advisers for Starbuck’s racial-bias training. They also released a separate report outlining suggestions for how Starbucks could achieve a “full-scale racial equity overhaul.”
Programs and Affiliates
In 2015 LDF began a program called the Thurgood Marshall Institute (TMI) with the help of Chuck Feeney’s offshore collection of foundations, Atlantic Philanthropies. According to its website, TMI is a research, advocacy, and organizing branch of the LDF.
The Earl Warren Legal Training Program, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was created to offer African-American legal studies students scholarships in order to promote civil rights and public interest work.
LDF is funded with grants from major left-of-center organizations. Since 1998, LDF has received significant funding from the Ford Foundation ($23 million as of 2015), and in 2016 received a $7.5 million grant from the foundation as an investment in the “long-term capacity and sustainability of social justice organizations.” Between 1998 and 2010, the Rockefeller Foundation gave LDF $1.125 million in funding.
Liberal billionaire George Soros’ Foundation to Promote Open Society and Open Society Foundations (OSF) are amongst the biggest funders of LDF, giving $2,623,000 and $965,206, respectively. Jonathan Soros, gave an additional $400,000 through his and his wife’s Jennifer and Jonathan Allan Soros Foundation.
Tides Foundation, a leftist pass-through organization and donor-advised fund manager, has given the LDF over $1 million. Jewish Communal Foundation, a donor advised fund provider, has given LDF over $1 million as of 2015. Another donor advised fund provider, Schwab Charitable Fund, has given LDF over $4 million in grants.
According to LDF’s 2016 Form 990, the organization contracted the Podesta Group, a now-defunct lobbying firm started by Tony Podesta, a Clinton operative and brother of Center for American Progress (CAP) founder John Podesta, for $156,280.
Sherrilyn Ifill became the president and director-counsel of the NAACP LDF in 2012. Following her graduation from law school, Ifill participated in a fellowship at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Prior to joining LDF, Ifill served as board chair of the Open Society Foundations’ United States Programs.
LDF has hired a number of former Obama administration employees including Melanie R. Newman, its Chief Public Engagement and Communications Strategist. Newman is the former Director of the Office of Public Affairs at the United States Department of Justice. She is also the former Democratic National Committee National Press Secretary.
Director of Policy Todd A. Cox was the former director of the Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under the Obama administration. His employment background also includes a senior fellowship and the Director of Criminal Justice Policy at the Center for American Progress. Cox also worked in a leadership role at Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and as a Program Officer for the Ford Foundation.