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About us / Who We Are

Who We Are

“In everything we do, we believe in creating freedom. We believe in feeling—living—bliss, no matter what you look like, where you’re from, what you believe, or whom you love. The way we create freedom is by innovating litigation, policy, and organizing to shift consciousness on a mass scale while designing power. We are the future of civil and human rights.”

Jill Collen Jefferson

A child in Mississippi, Jill Collen Jefferson is separated from her best friend, a little white girl, because she is Black. Jill never saw her again until 2021. This marked the first event in a long series of racist incidents in Mississippi that lasted throughout high school and culminated in her not being named valedictorian of her high school class, despite her performance.


Julian Bond and Jill Collen Jefferson meet at the University of Virginia. She is his student. He tells her that her purpose in life is to be a disciple of civil rights because she understands it better than her peers. Therefore, she had a responsibility to teach them. Professor Bond begins to mentor Jill one on one, training her in civil rights strategy week after week until his untimely passing in 2015.


Jill begins working on Capitol Hill in the office of Congressman John Lewis. At this same time, she is interning at the Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School and working full time as a sales associate at Nordstrom to pay the bills. It is during this time that Jill meets investigative journalist Jerry Mitchell while working on a bill and learns about civil rights cold cases.


Jill leaves Congressman Lewis’s office to join the Civil Rights Cold Case Project and investigate civil rights cold cases. This same year, Jill begins at the White House and decides to become a speechwriter for President Obama.


Jill takes a job as a cashier at target, working full-time during the day and using her nights to teach herself the craft of speechwriting. She writes speeches in President Obama’s voice and sends them to White House speechwriters, White House Counsel, and anyone who would listen.


Near midnight one night, President Obama’s campaign emails Jill and asks her to interview to be a speechwriter on his campaign. Jill is hired and moves to Chicago within one week, sleeping in her car that first night without anywhere else to go.


Jill becomes chief speechwriter for President Obama’s new non-profit, Organizing for Action, writing remarks for President Obama and surrogates.


Jill enrolls at Harvard Law School and concentrates on civil and human rights. It is during these three years that she begins to build JULIAN in the Harvard Innovation Lab with the help of Harvard Business School professors.


Jill works as a summer fellow at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.


Jill works at the Public International Law and Policy Group (PILPG), drafting an indictment of a foreign dictator. Jill then spent her summer as an associate at Steptoe and Johnson, LLP in Washington DC.


Jill graduates from HLS and begins working full time at Steptoe and Johnson in Washington DC.


Jill founds JULIAN a few weeks before George Floyd’s murder.

Jill founds JULIAN a few weeks before George Floyd’s murder.

The Story of Jill Collen Jefferson

I come from a place in rural Mississippi where Wi-Fi didn’t exist.

I learned about work from cleaning houses and picking peas with my grandmother and aunt, who were maids. I learned about death when my Uncle Pud, celebrating his birthday, gave cake to three bone-bare horses - only to find them dead the next day. He said they must’ve had diabetes. And I learned about life from watching an old stray dog trot back up the road every single week after Cousin Michael Ray dropped it off somewhere, hoping it’d get lost. It was so poor, it barely pressed down on the grass as it walked.

I learned about myself though through investigating civil rights cold cases, trying to find truth, listening to the voices of the underserved and unspoken.

Jill Collen Jefferson is a Harvard-trained lawyer and a disciple of civil rights.

Jill Collen Jefferson founded JULIAN because saw gaps in civil rights strategy and discipline in this nation, and when she approached established civil rights organizations to fill them, no one would listen. Having learned civil rights history and strategy from her lifelong mentor, Julian Bond, having worked on civil rights policy in Congressman John Lewis’ office, having helped implement policy in Barack Obama’s White House and communicate that policy to the nation as one of four speechwriters on his 2012 presidential campaign, Jill continues her mission and attacks discrimination under her mentor’s namesake.

Come. Let us build a new world together.

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