Nkech i Taifa


Nkechi Taifa

Preferred pronunciation: (Neh KEE Chee   Tah EE fah)

Nkechi Taifa is a civil and human rights attorney, scholar-activist and author. She is president of The Taifa Group, and serves as Senior Fellow for the Center of Justice at Columbia University. A visionary thought leader and nationally recognized expert and commentator on race and justice issues, Taifa has worked for the Open Society Foundations, Howard University School of Law, the ACLU, Women’s Legal Defense Fund, National Prison Project, and as an attorney in private practice. She was in the leadership of the Justice Roundtable coalition which successfully mobilized the passage of both the Second Chance Act reentry legislation (2008) and the Fair Sentencing Act crack disparity legislation (2010), and which gained inclusion of strong sentencing provisions in the First Step Act (2018). She helped fuel mobilization of the Obama Administration’s clemency initiative, which resulted in the early release from unjust imprisonment of over 1,700 people. 

Nkechi Taifa served as Commissioner and Chair of the D.C. Commission on Human Rights. She is founding member of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, and an inaugural Commissioner on the National African American Reparations Commission.  A native Washingtonian, Nkechi is the author of the best-seller memoir, Black Power, Black Lawyer: My Audacious Quest for Justice. She is a co-author of the 1987 book, Reparations Yes, and the author of several books for children. Taifa has testified before the United States Congress, the DC City Council, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the U.S Helsinki Commission, and the Maryland Legislature.


Nkechi Taifa is the author of scores of scholarly works, including law review articles, book chapters and white papers. She has been featured in major print and electronic media, and has received numerous honors and awards for her work, including Essence Magazine’s WOKE 100 Black Women Advocating for Change.



  • Nkechi Taifa was celebrated as one of the unsung Black women making strides in the law, in Essence Magazine. March, 2018.

  • Nkechi Taifa was honored as one of Essence Magazine’s 2019 WOKE 100 Black Women Advocating for Change. November, 2019.

  • "Equal Justice Award" from UDC David A. Clarke School of Law, 2017

  • "Black Resistance Matters" Award from Malcolm X Commemoration Committee 2017

  • "Legacy Award" from the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, 2016

  • Wiley Branton Award from the National Bar Association, 2016

  • "Dad's Award" from Hope House, 2016

  • Marcus Garvey Outstanding Community Service Award, Universal Negro Improvement Assn, December 2015

  • Cornelius "Neil" Alexander Humanitarian Award from the DC Commission on Human Rights, December 2015

  • Wiley Branton Award from Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, June 2014

  • Award from Congresswoman Maxine Waters
    September 2011


  • Recognition Award from "Crack the Disparity" Working Group,
    September 2010 


  • President's Award Washington Council of Lawyers, December 2005

  • African Consciousness Award (Kwanzaa), United Black Community, December 2003

  • Featured in WCL News Forum, official newsletter of Washington Council of Lawyers, August 21, 2001

  • Distinguished Faculty Award, from President and Provost of Howard University, April 17, 2001

  • Certificade De Participacion, Universidad de la Habana, "Sociedad y Derecho en Cuba", March 23, 2001

  • Warren Rosmarian Award for Excellence in Teaching and Service, presented by Howard University School of Law
    May 2000


  • "Professor of the Year," presented by Howard Law School Student Bar Association, May 2000

  • "Walking the Walk" Award, presented by Black Law Students Association Legislative Watch, May 1999

  • Certificate of Appreciation, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, February 1999

  • Certificate of Appreciation, ABA Law Students Division, 1998-99

  • "Who's Who in American Law", 9th Edition, 1996-97

  • "Outstanding Social Engineer Award for Invaluable Assistance and Tireless Dedication of Continuing the Legacy of Howard University School of Law," presented by the H.U. Law Student Bar Association', April 3, 1996

  • "Pro Bono Publico Award" for outstanding performance of H.U.'s Public Service Program, presented by Pro Bono Students America at the American Bar Association's Pro Bono Conference, April 13, 1996

  • Profiled in Legal Times, "Guide to Key Lobbyists - Criminal Justice Scorecard: An Insider's Guide to the Major Players", August 9, 1993

  • "Motor Voter" Coalition Award for Enactment of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, May 25, 1993

  • "Hobson, King, Parks, Dougla, Heutte" Award for Legislative Advocacy on Behalf of D.C. Statehood, December 1, 1993

  • Profiled in National Journal, "Interest Groups", October 26, 1991


Senior Fellow, 2019-present

Columbia University Center for Justice


Governing Board Member, 2019-present

Corrections Information Council


Board of Advisors, 2009-2011
Institute of the Black World 21st Century


Board of Advisors, 2009-2012
Behind the Cycle


-Commissioner, 2007-present

-Chairperson, 2012-2015

District of Columbia Commission on Human Rights


Member, 1999-present

American Bar Association


Member, 1998-present

National Bar Association


-Member, 1984-present

-Member, Board of Directors, 1992-98

-Co-Chairperson, Section on Criminal Justice, 1992-98

-President, D.C. Chapter, 1988-91

National Conference of Black Lawyers


Member, Board of Directors, 1989-91

National Lawyers Guild


-Honorary Board 2013-present

-Member, Board of Directors, 1999-2008

Washington Council of Lawyers


Member, 1999-present

Washington Bar Association


Member, Board of Directors, 1998-2004

American Civil Liberties Union of National Capital Area


Member, Board of Directors, 1999-2001

D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program (FK Public Service Activities Comm)


Member, Board of Directors, 1999-2004

Bureau of Rehabilitation, Inc.


Member, Board of Directors, 1995-2001

D.C. Prisoners Legal Services, Inc.


-Member, Board of Directors, 1993-95

-Section Co-Chair, 1994-95

D.C. Bar Section on Criminal Law & Individual Rights


Member, 1989-present

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers


Member 2003-present

National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice


-Chair, Legislative Commission 1995-2005

-Founding Member

National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America


Member, Board of Directors, 1992-98

Center for Study and Harassment of African Americans


Advisory Board, 2000-2002

American Assoc. of  Law Schools Pro Bono Committee


Member, 1995-2002

Community and Alumni Affairs Committee

Howard University School of Law


Chair, Board of Trustees, academic year 1999-2000

Roots Public Charter School


Member, Board of Directors, 1993-present

African Freedom Fund Treasury


Member, Board of Directors, 1980-present

Kwanzaa Children's Party, Inc. Organizing Committee


Co-Chair, 1993-95

Leadership Conference on Civil Rights 

Steering Committee on D.C. Statehood


Member, 1991-93

Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

Steering Committee on Voting Rights


Coordinator and Trainer, 1995

Million Man March Legal Observer Committee


General Counsel, 1990-92

African American Writer's Guild


General Counsel, 1984-87

Republic of New Africa Ministry of Justice


Co-Counsel, 1992-96

Sundiata Acoli Freedom Campaign