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Washington, DC–On Wednesday, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, alongside 15 civil rights organizations and co-counsel with Crowell & Moring LLP, filed an amicus brief in American Alliance for Equal Rights vs. Fearless Fund Management LLC, currently under review by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. In the brief, the Lawyers’ Committee continues to staunchly defend remedial philanthropic programs designed to combat longstanding, systemic discrimination and pushes back on claims that such programs constitute unlawful racial discrimination against white business owners under Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, our nation’s oldest civil rights law adopted during the period of Reconstruction following the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. 

The American Alliance for Equal Rights, one of multiple speciously-named entities founded by ultra-conservative, anti-civil rights crusader Edward Blum, filed the underlying lawsuit against the Fearless Fund, which operates a grant program to support Black women entrepreneurs. Fearless Fund describes its mission as “bridg[ing] the gap in venture capital funding for women of color founders.” The program awards $20,000 grants to small businesses owned by Black women who, despite their skills and track record of success, have long struggled to attract investments amid the well-documented discrimination in the U.S. venture capital market.

In their brief, the Lawyers’ Committee argues that the plaintiff’s claims are contrary to the text, history, and purpose of Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and that racial equity programs like the Fearless Fund’s grant contest are consistent with and further the goals of the Act. Section 1981 was explicitly designed to further the aims of the Thirteenth Amendment by creating a remedy for discrimination against Black people, most explicitly embodied in the Black Codes that had passed in many Southern states, that hampered their ability to enter into contracts and fully participate in the nation’s economy. The brief asserts that this federal law indisputably authorizes programs such as Fearless Fund’s, which helps fill the staggering gap in access to capital for Black business owners and other people of color due to widespread and systemic discrimination in the investment sector.

“In the ongoing battle against systemic racism and persistent discrimination, Ed Blum’s calculated assault on programs uplifting the Black community reflects a desperate attempt to stifle meaningful change,” said Katy Youker, Director for the Economic Justice Project with the Lawyers’ Committee. “Our resolve remains unyielding; we are dedicated to dismantling entrenched barriers, fostering inclusivity, and championing initiatives like Fearless Fund that empower people of color, breaking the chains of inequality in our pursuit of a just and equitable society.” 

Other organizations joining the amicus brief include the Advancement Project, American Civil Liberties Union, Appleseed Foundation, Inc., Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (“NAACP”), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (“LDF”), National Action Network, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, National Council of Negro Women, National Fair Housing Alliance, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Urban League, National Women’s Law Center, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.


About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to mobilize the nation’s leading lawyers as agents for change in the Civil Rights Movement. Today, the Lawyers’ Committee uses legal advocacy to achieve racial justice, fighting inside and outside the courts to ensure that Black people and other people of color have the voice, opportunity, and power to make the promises of our democracy real. For more information, please visit