Reverend Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., entrepreneur, global business leader, educator, chemist, civil rights leader, NAACP Life Member, syndicated columnist, theologian, and author is currently the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA): The Black Press of America. Dr. Chavis serves on the Board of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO).
Lifelong activist Dr. Chavis overcame racial injustice and wrongful imprisonment to become a vocal leader in the civil rights movement, which pressed for equality between the races. Dr. Chavis is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. Dr. Chavis began his career in 1963, as a statewide youth coordinator in NC for the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
Dr. Chavis was born in 1948 in Oxford, North Carolina, into a long and distinguished line of preachers. His parents were Benjamin Chavis Sr. and Elisabeth Chavis. He grew up the only son in a family of four children. His great-great-grandfather, John Chavis, is considered to be the first black graduate of Princeton University, because he graduated from a New Jersey seminary (religious school) that later became the university. John Chavis, according to Benjamin, was killed in 1838 for teaching slave children to read and write. A native of Oxford, North Carolina, Dr. Chavis received the Bachelor of Arts, BA, in Chemistry from University of North Carolina.
He even earned his Masters of Divinity, M.Div., magna cum laude, from Duke University while serving an unjust 34-year prison sentence as a member of the Wilmington 10, who Amnesty International declared political prisoners, a case that garnered international attention and was pardoned 40 years later. He also received the Doctor of Ministry, from Howard University and Doctor of Philosophy, Ph.D., in systematic theology, from Union Theological Seminary in New York.
From 1993 and 1994, Dr. Chavis served as the Executive Director and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and remains an active supporter of the NAACP. In 1995, Dr. Chavis was the National Director and organizer of the Million Man March. The 2010 theatrical release of the full-length movie Blood Done Sign My Name distributed by Paladin, directed by Jeb Stuart, starring Ricky Schroder, Nate Parker, and Lela Rochon depicts a true story from Dr. Chavis’ early days in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Dr. Chavis has authored books and other publications including: An American Political Prisoner Appeals for Human Rights, Psalms from Prison. His areas of expertise include corporate diversity and inclusion, human rights, climate change, voting rights, bridging the gap between civil rights and hip-hop, and criminal justice reform.