ACLU Elects a Black President for the First Time in the Nonprofit’s 101-Year History

Deborah N. Archer, New York University’s Jacob K. Javits professor of clinical law, was elected as the new president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Monday, Feb. 1. Archer becomes the ACLU’s eighth president since 1920 but will also be the first Black president to lead the nonprofit organization in its 101-year history.

In a press release following the announcement, the ACLU praised Archer as an “established civil rights attorney, scholar and teacher” with “a wealth of experience on racial justice and constitutional matters.” An active member of the ACLU for years, she began her career as the Marvin M. Karpatkin Legal Fellow in the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. She became a member of the ACLU board in 2009 before becoming a general counsel and a member of the executive committee of the board in 2017.

“It is an honor to come full circle and now lead the organization as board president,” Archer said following her appointment. “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. I could not be more excited to get to work.”

Anthony D. Romero, ACLU’s executive director said that as the country enters a post-Trump era of politics, “there is no one better equipped, who best personifies or is more capable to helm the future battles for civil rights, civil liberties and systemic equality than Deborah Archer.”

In addition to teaching at NYU, Archer is the co-faculty director of the university’s Center on Race, Inequality and the Law, as well as the director of the Civil Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law. Previously, she served as the inaugural dean of diversity and inclusion and as an associate dean for academics and student engagement at New York Law School. In addition to her participation on numerous nonprofit boards, Archer also serves on the board of directors of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

According to CNN, Archer’s role as president will include leading more than 60 members to create organizational policy as well as overseeing aspects like ACLU’s finances. She will be replacing Susan Herman, who for 12 years led “the organization’s board through watershed moments, including the Trump administration and the emergence of civil liberties and privacy concerns in the digital age.”