The National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA), founded in 1968, is a nationwide organization formed to articulate and promote the needs and goals of black law students and effectuates change in the legal community. As the largest student run organization in the country with over 6,000 members, NBLSA includes chapters or affiliates in six different countries including The Bahamas, Nigeria, and South Africa. NBLSA encourages the development of talented, social conscious lawyers of tomorrow. NBLSA help start the Black Law Students Association of Canada (BLSAC), The National Latino/Latina Student Association (NLLSA), National Association of Law Students with Disabilities (NALSD), and The National Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (NAPALSA). The headquarters of NBLSA is located in Washington, D.C.. Organized into six regions (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southern, Mid-West, Rocky Mountain and Western Region) the organization has over 200 chapters and is present in all but a few of the nation's accredited law schools, as well as unaccredited law schools. Each year, the organization holds an annual convention to engage in legal activism and while preparing new generations of black lawyers to "effectuate change." Additionally, the Frederick Douglass Moot Court and Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competitions are held during its Annual Convention.
In 1968, Algernon Johnson Cooper, former mayor of Prichard, Alabama, founded the first Black American Law Students Association at the New York University Law School. In 1983, BALSA revised its name and the word "American" was deleted to encompass all blacks, including those not of American nationality. Later, the word "National" was added to reflect the organization's national expansion, which now includes representation in the law schools of forty-eight states and Puerto Rico.
Wintta Woldemariam, a third year law student at the University of Texas, is the current National Chair for the 2008-2009 term. The immediate past chair is Eddie L. Koen Jr., a law fellow at Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, AL. The Association has ties with the National Bar Association, the Council on Legal Education Opportunity, The National Black Alliance, and the National Black Leadership Roundtable. However, the most important affiliation and duty this organization has is to the black community -- nationally and abroad. The theme for the 2008 year is "40 Years of History: Ensuring Inseverability." The organization has witnessed a surge in social activism for the 2007-2008 year. NBLSA has followed and taken action on the Genarlow Wilson case, the Jena Six controversy, the Seattle and Louisville Cases, as well as other popular controversial legal issues (such as the American Bar Associations 301-6 Bar Passage Standard Proposal). The year 2008 will mark the 40th Anniversary of the organization. Until his death in 1993, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was the honorary national chair.
NBLSA's 41st annual convention will be held from March 18-22, 2009 in Irvine, California.