Ben Jealous
Ben Jealous

Ben Jealous, one of America’s modern-day advocates for human rights, justice, and the youngest person to serve as NAACP President and CEO, is scheduled to host a book signing event Monday, Feb. 20, at Underground Books. Jealous will be in conversation with OBSERVER publisher Larry Lee, followed by a book signing for his new book, “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free.” The event will start at 6 p.m.

Hailed by the Washington Post as “one of the nation’s most prominent civil rights leaders,” Jealous has devoted his life and career, including his tenure as president of the NAACP, to ending injustice and racism by strengthening the bonds among Americans of all races, creeds, colors, and political ideologies. 

Currently, Jealous is the Sierra Club new Executive Director and a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at University of Pennsylvania Carey Law, where he currently teaches a course on Leadership and Racial Justice

In his book, Jealous draws inspiring lessons and hope for restoring the country’s strength and unity from stories of his ancestors, both Black and White, as well as his path-breaking partnerships with conservative leaders and Republican governors, including Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich, and Bob McDonnell.

As Jealous shares, his book’s title was inspired by a truth instilled by his maternal grandmother, Mamie Todd Bland, the family griot, who recently died at the age of 105. Her belief in the inherent freedom and value of every human being was instilled by her maternal grandfather, Edward David Bland. An African American child enslaved by his White uncle, Edward Bland was a free man at the end of the Civil War and became an itinerant preacher of freedom — economic and political. He went on to help lead a movement that culminated in the creation of Virginia State University and secured the future of free public education for every child in the state, as well as serving in the state legislature. 

As Jealous also shares, his commitment to human rights and healing was inspired by his White father. Abused as a child and later disowned by his own father for marrying a Black woman in 1966, Ben’s quietly courageous dad created a 12-step program to help abusive, often violent men break the cycle of domestic abuse.   

Throughout “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free,” Jealous interweaves vivid anecdotes of family, friends, mentors, colleagues, and strangers who have shaped his life’s mission and his faith in humanity — ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert E. Lee, and Desmond Tutu to Stacey Abrams, from his distant cousin Dick Cheney to a Klu Klux Klansman who wrestled with what Jesus actually said to his “godbrother” Dave Chappelle — with his informed, thought-provoking, and consciousness-raising views on racial profiling, the connection between social isolation and suicide, the toll of mass incarceration on the nation, and race and racism.