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ACLU elects Deborah Archer as first Black president

Story at a glance

  • Archer succeeds Susan Herman, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who stepped down after serving in the role for 12 years.
  • “The ACLU has proven itself as an invaluable voice in the fight for civil rights in the last four years of the Trump era, and we are better positioned than ever to face the work ahead,” Archer said.
  • In the announcement, the ACLU noted that 2020 was a “watershed year” that saw a protest movement against racial inequality and police brutality that rivaled the “Civil Rights Era of the 1960s.”

For the first time in its 101-year history, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has elected a Black person to lead the organization. 

The ACLU announced on Monday that its national board over the weekend elected civil rights attorney, scholar and teacher Deborah Archer as its new president. Archer succeeds Susan Herman, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who stepped down after serving in the role for 12 years. 


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“After beginning my career as an ACLU fellow, it is an honor to come full circle and now lead the organization as board president,” Archer said in a statement

“The ACLU has proven itself as an invaluable voice in the fight for civil rights in the last four years of the Trump era, and we are better positioned than ever to face the work ahead. This organization has been part of every important battle for civil liberties during our first century, and we are committed to continuing that legacy as we enter our second,” Archer said. 

Archer started her career as the Marvin M. Karpatkin Legal Fellow at the ACLU and has been a member of the board since 2009. She is a tenured professor of clinical law and director of the Civil Rights Clinic at New York University School of Law and co-faculty director of the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at NYU Law. 

In the announcement, the ACLU noted that 2020 was a “watershed year” that saw a protest movement against racial inequality and police brutality that rivaled the “Civil Rights Era of the 1960s.” The nonprofit founded in 1920 also celebrated its centennial year. 

The ACLU filed an unprecedented 413 lawsuits and other legal actions against the Trump administration due to its policies related to immigrant rights, voting rights, LGBTQ+ rights and other racial justice issues. 


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