August 28, 2013: Mother of NAACP leader is proud, passionate — and worried

Mother of NAACP leader is proud, passionate — and worried

By Kate Santich

11:39 p.m. EDT, August 28, 2013

When you’re a fourth-generation member of the NAACP and you’ve devoted much of your life to fighting for social and racial justice, you’re understandably proud when your son grows up to become the president and CEO of the the nation’s oldest civil rights group.

And make no mistake, Ann Todd Jealous — who at age 13 helped desegregate a historically white public high school for girls in Baltimore — is very proud.

She’s also more than a little nervous.

In 2008, her son — Benjamin Todd Jealous, then 35 — became the youngest leader in the history of the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Her reaction?

“I didn’t want him to take the job,” she said recently, as her son was preparing to address the crowds of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. “That was the mother part of me. The social activist part of me knew he’d do very well. But I have to admit I was frightened for him, and sometimes I still am.”

Ann Jealous, now a retired marriage and family therapist, is black. Her husband, Fred Jealous, a community activist and teacher, is white. When they wed in the late 1960s, interracial marriages were still illegal in their home state of Maryland. The entire wedding party had to travel from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., for the ceremony, then back for the reception. Fred Jealous’ patriarchal grandfather, who controlled the family fortune, disinherited him.

The couple now live in Pacific Grove, Calif., some 3,000 miles away from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial — where their son stood last weekend, addressing the tens of thousands who’d come to join the anniversary event.

Ann Jealous watched on TV.

“Even now, as proud as I am of him — and I do think he’s done an exceptionally good job — I know there’s still a lot of fear and hatred going on in this country.”

The book she co-authored, “Combined Destinies: Whites Sharing Grief about Racism,” was published in February to robust reviews. It’s an anthology of white Americans writing about the harmful legacy of racism, and Ann Jealous thinks there is perhaps no better point in history to have that conversation.

“I think it is an important time. I think we have a lot of possibility,” she said. “On the one hand, I look and see a huge increase in the number of interracial relationships, marriages, adoptions, people working side by side. And I rejoice in that.

“Then I look in another direction and I see fear, hatred. The curtain that was covering a lot of animosity has been drawn back, and I see the old power structure feeling threatened. And then I see a lot of well-meaning white people not speaking up or wanting it all to just go away.”

A post-racial society? Someday, she says. But not now, not yet.

If it were, the mom in her would breathe a lot easier.

This originally appeared on the Orlando Daily Sentinal:,0,

Comments (1)

Kathleen Ryan at 1:58 AM September 01, 2013

I was fortunate to meet Ann Todd Jealous about a year ago where I heard her speak in Monterey, CA, after she and her husband Fred won the ACLU Atkinson Award. Her speech was titled, “What I Have Learned.” I hope Ms. Todd Jealous will publish this so others can benefit from her wisdom. She was very inspiring and her words rang true. I am happy to read more about her in this wonderful article. With best wishes, Kathleen L. Ryan

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