Van Jones Biography

Van JonesA Yale-educated attorney, humanitarian CNN political contributor Anthony Kapel “Van” Jones is a lawyer, civil rights activist, and champion of social and environmental justice. 

Among his many achievements, Jones has founded and led numerous organizations engaged in social and environmental justice, including:

  • The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which promotes criminal justice reform
  • Color of Change, which works for racial fairness through its 1 million members
  • Rebuild The Dream, a 21st-century "think tank" that champions innovative solutions to fix the U.S. economy and uplift the next generation
  • The Dream Corps, which promotes innovative policy solutions and operates three major advocacy initiatives: #YesWeCode, committed to helping train 100,000 low-opportunity youth to become top-level computer programmers; #cut50, which is working to cut the U.S. prison population in half in the next 10 years; and Green for All, which lifts people out of poverty through green job training and job creation

Jones served as President Barack Obama’s special adviser and primary advocate for the Green Jobs Act. Signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007, the Green Jobs Act was the first piece of federal legislation to use the term "green jobs." During the Obama administration, the legislation resulted in $500 million in national funding for green jobs training. As special adviser to President Obama, beginning in 2009, Jones helped to lead the interagency process that oversaw the multibillion-dollar investment in skills training and jobs development within the environmental and green energy sectors. 

Jones has also served as president of Dream Corps, as a distinguished visiting fellow at Princeton University, and as a co-host of CNN’s political debate show Crossfire. He is among activists featured in 13th, a 2016 documentary directed by Ava DuVernay about the U.S. justice system and factors that have resulted in the over-incarceration of minorities and the highest incarceration rate in the world. He has been a visiting fellow in collaborative economics at Presidio Graduate School and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and American Progress Action Fund and is presently a fellow at the MIT Media Lab.

In 2004, the World Economic Forum recognized Jones as a Young Global Leader. In 2008, Fast Company ranked Jones one of the year’s 12 Most Creative Minds on Earth. In 2009, Time magazine named Jones one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2010, he received the NAACP President’s Award. In 2012, Rolling Stone named him among 12 Leaders Who Get Things Done. In 2013 and 2014, he was named to The Root 100. Jones has also been named to Ebony magazine’s 2013 Power 100 and 2011 Power 150, and in 2008, he was named to one of Essence magazine’s 25 Most Inspiring African Americans. He has been named one of National Priorities Project’s 30th Anniversary Democracy Champions and served as a member of the international Ashoka Fellowship. 

He is the author of two New York Times bestselling books devoted to environmental and social justice issues: The Green Collar Economy and Rebuild the Dream.