In 1968, Algernon Johnson (“AJ”) Cooper, former mayor of Prichard, Alabama, founded the first Black American Law Students Association (“BALSA”) at the New York University Law School. In 1983, BALSA revised its name, and the word “American” was deleted to encompass all Blacks, including those not of American nationality. Later, the word “National” was added to reflect the organization’s national expansion, which now includes representation in the law schools of nearly every state in the nation and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Today, National Black Law Students Association (“NBLSA”), is a national organization formed to articulate and promote the needs and goals of Black law students to effectuate change in the legal community. As one of the largest student-run organizations of its kind in the United States for Black law students, NBLSA has thousands of members across America and is also comprised of more than 200 chapters and affiliates from six countries, including the Bahamas, Nigeria, and South Africa. NBLSA is organized into six regions: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southern, Midwest, Southwest and Western Region.
With its headquarters located in Washington, DC, NBLSA encourages the development of talented and socially conscious lawyers of tomorrow. Each year, the organization holds an annual convention to engage in legal activism to prepare new generations of Black lawyers to effectuate change. Additionally, the Frederick Douglass Moot Court , Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial, and Nelson Mandela International Negotiations Competitions are held during NBLSA’s annual convention.
Notably, NBLSA assisted in the formation of the Black Law Students Association of Canada (BLSAC), the National Latino/Latina Student Association (NLLSA), National Association of Law Students with Disabilities (NALSD), and the National Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (NAPALSA).
The purpose of NBLSA is to utilize the collective resources of the member chapters to:
- Articulate and promote the educational, professional, political, and social needs and goals of Black law students;
- Foster and encourage professional competence;
- Improve the relationship between Black law students, Black attorneys, and the American legal structure;
- Instill in the Black attorney and law student a greater awareness and commitment to the needs of the Black community;
- Influence the legal community by bringing about meaningful legal and political change that addresses the needs and concerns of the Black community;
- Adopt and implement policies of economic independence;
- Encourage Black law students to pursue careers in the judiciary; and
- Do all things necessary and appropriate to accomplish these purposes.
The mission of NBLSA is to increase the number of culturally responsible Black and minority attorneys who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.
National Chair’s Message
At a time when race, law and justice are at the center of social and policy debates, NBLSA is committed now more than ever, to increasing the number of culturally responsible Black and minority attorneys who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community. Consequently, this year’s theme is “Embracing our Legacy: Pursuing Racial Justice and Lasting Social Action.” Necessarily, our theme invokes paying homage to those who blazed the trail to make the pursuit of justice possible and equally important, our theme requires that central to our work this year, is that we each have a keen commitment to wrestling with the legal and social infirmities that strip individuals and creation from fulfilling their/its ultimate potential.
With our theme in mind, NBLSA is excited to redouble its advocacy efforts on issues ranging from environmental justice, voter rights and criminal justice reform, and work to ensure that we pay special attention to systemic and institutional remedies. NBLSA will continue to lead robust Moot Court, Mock Trial and International Negotiations competitions in the spirit of Frederick Douglass, Thurgood Marshall and Nelson Mandela. NBLSA will leverage its resources and human capital to lead significant community service so that communities experience the positive impact that NBLSA provides. NBLSA will motivate young people to pursue a career in law and work with alumni to make law school possible for the next generation through innovative Pre-Law and Alumni Divisions. Finally, NBLSA will work collaboratively from within and from without to pursue justice and equity here in the United States and abroad.
Nearly fifty years ago NBLSA was founded out of a passion for justice and service. NBLSA has been a staple in the legal community for nearly half a century and our mission and purpose is just as salient today as it was then. NBLSA’s best days are in front of her. Our great history and legacy has prepared us well to lead and be a catalyst for transformational change. We believe deeply that our time and work in law school is purposeful, our moment ripe, and our skills perfected for times like these.
Join us as we help reshape our country and our world.
With NBLSA49 Pride,
Derick D. Dailey
2016-2017 National Chair