He's No Gentle Ben

The N.A.A.C.P.'s new leader is shaking up the stodgy group, but the Old Guard considers him a scary radical

Who is he? And why on earth would he want the job anyway? Those were the first questions many people asked when Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. became executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People last April. Chavis immediately provided some answers: he was a man of action with a sense of symbolism as well.

In his first three months on the job, Chavis has shaken up the N.A.A.C.P., trading its long-standing cautiousness for a new militancy. Only a day after his selection, he demonstrated the association's renewed concern for reaching the inner-city poor by journeying to...

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