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Civil rights leader Ben Crump’s pursuit of economic freedom and social justice

A deep dive into the fight for economic equality and the need for more Black professionals in law and beyond

In an exclusive interview with, renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump shared his impassioned views on the vital need for social and economic justice in America. Drawing on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his own extensive legal battles, Crump underscores the critical importance of economic freedom as the foundation for all other liberties. He articulates a powerful vision for the future, emphasizing the necessity of education and professional advancement within the Black community. Crump’s call to action is clear: to uplift our communities, we must foster a new generation of lawyers, doctors, and professionals dedicated to fighting for equal access to the American dream.

Munson Steed: Social economic justice. Why must we continue to demand social economic justice?

Ben Crump: Dr. King’s last speeches all dealt with economic freedom. What I’ve been arguing, as I sue banks all across America for denying access to capital to Black and Brown people, is that we must make economic freedom the priority because with economic freedom, then all the other freedoms become that much more obtainable. But without economic freedom, all the freedoms are that much more challenging, whether it is the freedom to get quality education, freedom to get quality health care, freedom to get homeownership. 

I mean, without economic freedom, all the freedoms are very, very challenging in America, we are a capitalistic society. And we have to understand that a basic foundation is being able to have economic inclusion in all our communities. That’s why education is so vital. With education, it allows you to be able to understand the different institutions in America, and how we can benefit from seizing little pieces of those institutional promises that America has given to all its citizens. One of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

We somehow think, because we’ve been so victimized in American society, that the right to life just did not be killed unjustly by the people who are supposed to protect and serve you and community with environmental racism, where you die from cancer far too young, or the right to liberty, that we’re not wrongfully convicted. We are a victim of the prison industrial complex. But that’s not all that America promises. We promise the pursuit of happiness. And that’s where economic freedom comes in. 

To be able to leave your children something when you leave this earth, to leave them in a better position than you were, to be able to help them get an education, help them have a home, which is the greatest engine for wealth-building in America for the middle class. That’s what economic freedom is about.

MS: Lastly, challenge our community to become lawyers. Why do we need more of you? We got the law school, but we can’t get enough, we can’t get enough doctors. Why do we need more attorneys?

BC: We can never get enough professionals in our community. It’s a theory of the talented tenth. What W.E.B. Du Bois talked about that 10% of us are going to make it, we’re going to be okay, we’re going to get the college degrees, we’re going to get the fancy jobs, we’re going to have the high salaries, and everything, and we’re going to be okay. 

But shame on us if we don’t try to pull up the other 90% who are going to suffer mightily. That’s what we have to always remember: the reason why we have to have more lawyers, doctors, engineers, construction owners is because the 90% is worth saving, they are worth the fight. I mean, it is a shame that when you look at the numbers, Blacks lack in every category: homeownership, the wealth index, stocks and investments, generational wealth. 

We are last in every category. That only changes by making sure that our young people are educated. Medgar Evers was at the NAACP meeting, and they said that his last documented words were, “If we can educate the masses, we can uplift the race.” When you got a legal education, you can go into a courtroom and you can fight for equal access to the American dream. And that’s why we need more attorneys like the Thurgood Marshalls of the world. We can do it; we just have to be willing to fight to make our dreams come true.

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