Former NAACP head Ben Jealous will offer his endorsement of Democratic Party presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Friday. The endorsement will be announced at an event in New Hampshire, where Sanders and his top rival, former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are campaigning ahead of next week’s primaries.
The backing of Jealous, 43, who was the youngest leader of the civil-rights organization, provides a potential boost for the Vermont senator, who has struggled to connect with African American voters in his race against Hillary Clinton.
African Americans will be a key constituency in the Democratic contest once it moves beyond New Hampshire, which is predominantly white, much like Iowa, where Clinton narrowly prevailed Monday in the first-in-the-nation caucuses.
Though Sanders has a long history of civil-rights activism, he began his presidential bid largely unknown among black voters. About 95 percent of Vermont’s population is white.
It remains to be seen whether Jealous’ endorsement will boost African-American votes for Sanders. While Sanders toes a more populist line than Clinton, the Clinton presidency and her significant role in it still resonate among African-American voters.