The Leadership Conference was founded in 1950 as the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights by A. Philip Randolph, head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; Roy Wilkins of the NAACP; and Arnold Aronson, a leader of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council. Their visionary leadership was grounded in their commitment to social justice and the firm conviction that the struggle for civil rights would be won, not by one group alone, but through coalition.
While many marched in the streets, sat-in at lunch counters, and refused to ride in the back of the bus, The Leadership Conference worked to get Congress to pass legislation that would protect the civil and human rights of all Americans. The Leadership Conference lobbied for and won the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the Civil Rights Act of 1960, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and also helped to organize one of the defining events of the 20th century — the 1963 March on Washington.
In 1969, The Leadership Conference Education Fund was founded as the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference. The Education Fund's initiatives are grounded in the belief that an informed public is more likely to support effective federal civil rights and social justice policies.
In January 2010, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights changed its name to The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a move designed to reflect the founding principles of The Leadership Conference and recognize the central importance of both "civil rights" and "human rights" in the work of the coalition. The Leadership Conference Education Fund, having been known as the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund for many years, revived its original name, The Leadership Conference Education Fund.