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Dr. Benjamin Chavis

Dr. Benjamin Franklin Chavis Jr. (born January 22, 1948) in Oxford, North Carolina is an African American civil rights leader and icon, United Church of Christ (UCC) ordained minister, author, journalist, organic chemist, environmentalist, global entrepreneur, and currently President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) based in Washington, DC since 2014.

Dr. Chavis is the Executive Producer and Host of The Chavis Chronicles, www.TheChavisChronicles.com, broadcast weekly on PBS TV Network stations reaching over 90 million households throughout the United States. THE GOOD NEWS is a new nationally syndicated, daily radio commentary www.TheGoodNewsRadio.com  hosted by Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. powered by the Krantz Media Group, www.krantzmediagroup.com.

The Chavis family has been deeply rooted in the “freedom movement” in Granville County, North Carolina for over 250 years as landowners, farmers, educators, theologians, physicians, and activists. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr is the great, great, great-grandson of the Reverend John Chavis (1763–1838), the first Black American to attend Princeton University and the first Black American to be ordained as a Presbyterian minister in the United States (in 1799).

In his youth in the early 1960s, Chavis was the North Carolina statewide youth coordinator and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) assistant to Martin Luther King Jr., who inspired him to work and to become a Christian minister in the civil rights movement across the United States, and to later to champion African liberation in Angola, Namibia, South Africa and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Chavis became an active supporter and associate of the African National Congress (ANC) led by Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela.

Chavis first attended Saint Augustine University (HBCU) in Raleigh, NC in 1965 and 1966 majoring in chemistry.  He transferred to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 1967 and graduated with a BA in Chemistry in 1970. While in Charlotte, Chavis continued to work as a college student for SCLC and as a labor organizer for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

At the age of 24, Reverend Benjamin F. Chavis Jr rose to international prominence in 1972 as the leader of the Wilmington Ten in NC, civil rights activists who were “political prisoners” as designated by Amnesty International, and who were unjustly convicted of committing arson and sentenced to a combined total of 282 years in prison. The Wilmington Ten convictions and sentences were appealed and eventually overturned in 1980 by the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals due to unconstitutional systemic racism and “prosecutorial misconduct.” During Chavis’ frontline foot-soldier civil rights career in the 1960s, 1970s, and in the1980s, he has been unjustly charged, arrested and jailed over 67 times, and in each case subsequently found not guilty or dismissed as unjustly charged.

Chavis returned to graduate schools in NC, DC and NY in the field of civil rights as a minister and a program director of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice under the leadership of another mentor, the Reverend Dr, Charles E. Cobb, Sr, Chavis received the Master of Divinity (magna cum laude) from Duke University (1980) and a Doctor of Ministry from Howard University (1981). Chavis was admitted in 1982 into the PhD program in Systematic Theology as a graduate student at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and completed all of the academic course requirements in 1984.  Chavis was elected National Vice President of the National Council of Churches in 1988.

In 1993, the national board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) elected Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr as the youngest Executive Director and CEO of America’s oldest national civil rights organization.  In July of 1993, Chavis was proud to introduce The Honorable Nelson Mandela to speak in person at the NAACP national convention in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Benjamin Chavis actually began his journalistic career at the age of 11 while in the sixth grade at Angier B. Duke Elementary School in Oxford, NC.   Chavis wrote weekly news stories about Black youth activism for The Carolina Times, published by one of the leading members of the NNPA, Louis E. Austin, in Durham, NC.  From 1985 to 1993, Chavis authored and produced a weekly national commentary “Civil Rights Journal” for the NNPA, Jet Magazine, National Black Radio Network, and for the American Urban Radio Network.  Chavis has continued to write award-winning Op Eds, news features, and columns for the NNPA from 2003 to 2023.

In 1982, Dr. Chavis was the first person to coined the term environmental racism during environmental justice protests in Warren County, NC. Over the past four decades, Dr. Chavis has emerged as the “Godfather of the Environmental Justice Movement” that today has evolved into an effective worldwide movement for environmental and climate justice and equity.   

Dr. Chavis defined environmental racism as “racial discrimination in the deliberated targeting of ethnic and minority communities for exposure to toxic and hazardous waste sites and facilities, coupled with the systematic exclusion of minorities in environmental policy making, enforcement, and remediation.”

In 1986 Dr. Chavis conducted, co-authored and published the landmark national study: Toxic Waste and Race in the United States of America, that statistically revealed and substantiated the national correlation and causation between race and the location of toxic waste throughout the United States. In 1991, as Executive Director of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, Dr. Chavis Co-Chaired, funded and organized the First People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in Washington, DC that codified the Principles of Environmental Justice

In 1992–1993, Dr. Chavis served as a member of the Clinton-Gore Transition Team and later became an active member of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development.  Dr. Chavis was the National Director of the successful Million Man March on October 16, 1995, in Washington, DC., the largest African American event mobilization in the history of America.

In 2001, Dr. Chavis and Russell Simmons co-founded and organized the first National Hip-Hop Summit in New York City that led to establishment for the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN), www.HSAN.org the world’s largest international coalition of recording artists, producers, and entertainment industry leaders.  From 2001 to 2012, over 75 Hip-Hop Summits were held in NY, TX, CA, Il, MI, MD, PA, NJ, NC, GA, MO, IN, WI, VA, AL, Toronto, and Johannesburg.

Currently, Dr. Chavis also serves as the Co-Chair of No Labels; Chairman of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO); Chairman of the Thurgood Marshall Center Trust; and Co-Founder Chair Emeritus of Diamonds Do Good.

Dr. Chavis has four sons: Benjamin III, Franklin, John Mandela and Reginald Louis. He has four daughters are Michele, Paula, Renita, and Ana Elisabeth.  He is a grandfather and a great grandfather.