CINCINNATI — Dr. Ebony Speakes-Hall, a longtime justice advocate and national leader in the field of social work, was elected president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on March 20, becoming the first African-American woman to lead the organization’s 23-member board of directors.

"I have never worked with such brilliant and compassionate people devoted to the complex work of civil liberties and racial justice," Speakes-Hall said. "In every undertaking, the ACLU of Ohio brings its A-game." A Springfield, Ohio, native, Speakes-Hall is associate professor of social work at the University of Cincinnati and a former assistant professor at Central State University. She is an executive board member of the National Association of Social Workers and a former director of NASW’s Ohio Chapter. She also manages a private therapy practice for individuals and families, focusing on the impact of historical trauma on African Americans.

"There is no one better prepared, and with greater heart and conviction, to lead the ACLU of Ohio at this moment in our organization’s missional life than Dr. Speakes-Hall," said executive director J. Bennett Guess. "She has been active in giving shape to our organization’s new strategic plan and, for many years, has stewarded our efforts to fully embrace and live our values in all that we do."

As the ACLU of Ohio’s equity officer and a member of its executive committee since 2017, Speakes-Hall has presented at National ACLU gatherings on the Ohio affiliate’s efforts to prioritize issues of equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging. She has held leadership positions in many non-profits rooted in social justice and equity.

"The ACLU is passionate about ensuring that diversity, inclusion, and equity permeate everything we do," she said. "Serving the ACLU requires this type of excellence and ingenuity. If we want to inspire a culture of belonging in our state, it must begin with us, and guess what? It does."

Speakes-Hall’s election comes just weeks after the election of Deborah Archer as National ACLU board president, also the first African-American woman in the role. Archer is professor of clinical law and director of the Civil Rights Clinic at New York University School of Law.

"I am excited to get the word out about our work and increase engagement among our Black and Brown members," Speakes-Hall said. "The ACLU is uniquely positioned to be a vehicle of advocacy for individuals from underserved communities. As a social worker, I know what happens when the voices of individuals from marginalized spaces are lifted and heard: change happens."

Speakes-Hall also wants to increase the visibility of advocates from Asian and Indigenous communities and continue the ACLU of Ohio’s priority work for criminal justice reform. Speakes-Hall received her Master of Divinity from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University, Master of Science in Social Work from Case Western Reserve University, and the Doctor of Social Work degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

As board president, Speakes-Hall succeeds Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries, an African-American history scholar and associate professor of history at The Ohio State University, who completed 10 years of board service in March, including two years as president and four years as vice president.

The ACLU of Ohio’s other officers include Erik Meinhardt of Lakewood (vice president/secretary), Adarsh Krishen of Bratenahl (treasurer), Curtis Maples of Cincinnati (equity officer), Susan Becker of Avon Lake (general counsel), and Darlene English of Cleveland (national board representative).