J.R. Clifford – Franklin Cleckley Fellowship

Mountain State Justice (MSJ) offers a $5,000 paid summer fellowship for high school, college, and graduate students who are Black, Indigenous, and other people of color interested in social justice advocacy.  Through experiential learning, individual mentorship and development, and community interaction, the fellowship aims to provide the tools necessary for the fellow ready to lead the transformation of under-served communities.

In 1996, MSJ opened its doors pursue no-cost impact and significant litigation on behalf of low-income West Virginians. Since that time, we have provided free legal services to thousands of underserved West Virginians to protect their health and safety, their education, their homes, and their livelihoods. We keep our practice flexible to meet the changing needs of low-income West Virginians facing mistreatment by powerful institutions—from banks and car dealers to schools, state hospitals, and prisons.

Fellows will have the opportunity to work serve low-income and under-served communities in West Virginia. Fellows will engage in a variety of areas, including consumer rights, immigration, bankruptcy, health care, education, employment, access to benefits, and/or prisoners’ rights. Fellows will also participate in client interviews and legal proceedings, conduct research, engage in policy advocacy, receive regular mentorship, engage in hands-on training, and build connections within the community.

The Clifford-Cleckley Fellowship will be awarded to two students from high school, college and graduate programs who are Black, Indigenous, or other people of color. Applicants should be self-directed, energetic, possess a desire to advance social justice, and have an ability to work in an environment that respects everyone in our community. Applicants’ life experiences and academic excellence should support their desire to work towards social change.

Each recipient will receive $5,000 for a summer fellowship that will be located in Morgantown or Charleston, West Virginia; during the pandemic, remote work may be required. The application deadline is March 15, 2023.

Application Instructions: Applicants will be evaluated on the above criteria, including their life experiences, commitment to social justice, and academic achievement. The deadline to apply is March 15, 2023. To apply for the Fellowship, please send a cover letter indicating your interest in the position, including your qualifications and life experiences that make you a good candidate with the subject line “Clifford-Cleckley Fellowship Application” to:

Rachel Kerns, Operation & Finance Manager Email: rachel(at)msjlaw.org

Mailing: 1217 Quarrier Street, Charleston, WV 25301 Fax: 304-344-3145

Franklin Cleckley was the first Black West Virginia Supreme Court Justice, appointed in 1994, and the first Black member of the WVU School of Law faculty when he was appointed in 1969. Justice Cleckley grew up in McDowell County, West Virginia.  

J.R. Clifford became West Virginia’s first Black attorney when he was admitted to the bar in 1887. Mr. Clifford was the attorney on the landmark anti-discrimination case Williams v. Board of Education, which he won in 1898. Mr. Clifford was a founding member of the Niagara Movement. Mr. Clifford grew up in Grant County, West Virginia, and spent his career as a civil rights leader in West Virginia.