When the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) was founded in 1940, Black Americans lived under the oppressive specter of Jim Crow.

Anti-lynching laws were not enforced and deep racial dividing lines were uncrossed in schools, in restaurants, and in public accommodations throughout the nation. Even the graveyard was a sanctioned division, reflected by a Georgia decree: “The officer in charge shall not bury, or allow to be buried, any colored persons upon ground set apart or used for the burial of white persons.”

Not until 1965—25 years after LDF’s inception— would the last state-sanctioned segregation laws be struck down. And still, the vestiges of institutional racism remain.

Working within the framework of LDF’s extensive civil rights docket and other high-profile policy initiatives, we carried out sustained, intensive public education that upheld the highest tenets of equal justice under the law.

Our communications strategies supported voting rights, fair administration of criminal justice, equal educational access, employment opportunity and affirmative action—and translated into frequent and prominent placements on national news broadcasts and in influential opinion journals.

A three-year public education campaign with LDF focused on the case of Kemba Smith, a Hampton University student wrongfully jailed under draconian drug sentencing policies. The case helped train a national spotlight on wrong-headed federal sentencing guidelines and their impact on first-time, nonviolent, and women defendants. As a result of the LDF campaign, then-President Clinton granted Smith clemency in 2000.

During our 14 years as AOR, we sharpened our racial justice lens and solidified a coveted niche as a communications specialist for civil rights. Most important, we helped maintain LDF’s standing as a national force in social justice advocacy.

Since the beginning, first under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall and later with Elaine R. Jones at the helm, LDF has fought for reforms in the American legal system. As agency of record from 1992 through 2006, McKinney & Associates stood alongside LDF in its struggle to secure and protect the rights of Blacks, other people of color, women and the poor.