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Thu, 01.22.1948

Ben Chavis born

Rev. Ben Chavis

*Ben Chavis was born on this date in 1948.  He is a Black minister and civil rights activist.  

Benjamin Franklin Chavis Jr. was born and grew up in Oxford, North Carolina. In 1960 at the age of twelve, Chavis became the first Black to be issued a library card at the public library. He graduated from Mary Potter High School in 1965 and entered St. Augustine College in Raleigh as a freshman. He was an assistant to Martin Luther King Jr. and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (1969).  

Chavis worked in the American Civil Rights movement, leading a march in 1970 to the state capital in protest after three white men were acquitted of killing Henry D. Marrow in Oxford. He was a leader of the Wilmington Ten, who all were convicted of arson during a civil rights protest in the city for school desegregation. The oldest at 24, he was sentenced to 34 years in prison and served two years. The convictions and sentences were appealed. In 1980 the federal appeals court overturned the convictions, citing "prosecutorial misconduct." and ordering a new trial. The city decided against a trial.  

Later Chavis received his Master of Divinity from Duke University (1980) and a Doctor of Ministry from Howard University (1981). Chavis was admitted 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.  He was Executive Director of the NAACP and later served as the National Director of the Million Man March, and the Founder and CEO of the National African American Leadership Summit (NAALS). Since 2001, Chavis has been CEO and Co-Chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, which he co-founded with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.

In 2009, Chavis joined with Ezell Brown and established Education Online Services Corporation headquartered in Coral Springs, Florida. In 2011, Chavis collaborated on "Surviving the Game: How to Succeed in the Music Business" where Chavis is credited as author of the foreword and technical advisor.  In 2014, Chavis became the interim president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, which focuses on supporting and advocating for publishers of the nation's more than 200 Black newspapers. In 2015, he helped organize the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March: Justice or Else.

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