Moved by the nationwide protests against racial inequity last summer, the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis wanted to find ways toin its community and help lift the Tennessee city’s most disadvantaged residents. So the nonprofit created an unrestricted for LeMoyne-Owen College — the most significant gift the tiny private institution had ever received. For LeMoyne-Owen, a historically Black college, the facility was “transformational,” , Vernell Bennett-Fairs.
LeMoyne-Owenare still figuring out how exactly they will use the money. But the gift dwarfed what had been its $12 million endowments. Bennett-Fairs said it will allow leaders to and degree offerings, recruit new students, hire new faculty, offer more scholarships, grow its honors program, and make needed infrastructure improvements. “It speaks to the value and importance of LeMoyne-Owen to this community,” Bennett-Fairs said. “It will impact the campus for on so many different levels.”
The gift is one of many massive financial investments made to historicallyby billionaire investors, nonprofits, and the federal government over the past year. The donations were given as the nation turned its attention to racial injustices. The in financial peril. HBCU graduate Kamala Harris was nominated and elected as .
Thosefor HBCUs, which compete for students against well-endowed, predominantly white institutions. In some cases, they .
Each significant investment can cascade, inspiring other philanthropists to do the same, said Rodriguez Murray, senior vice president of public policy and government affairs at UNCF. The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis created the $40 million endowments for LeMoyne-Owen, for example, becauseNetflix CEO Reed Hastings and philanthropist Patty Quillin gave to UNCF and HBCUs Spelman and Morehouse last June, the organization’s president, Robert Fockler, said.
The Memphis Foundationto grow and develop instead of worrying about survival and serving what it considers “the most critical population in our community,” Fockler said.
HBCUs areand have proven crucial to closing the racial wealth gap, financially propelling low-income Americans, and sparking social change. But a long history of systemic racism has to the money needed to keep up financially with institutions that serve primarily white students. The has existed since the emergence of HBCUs in the wake of the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Jim Crow-era segregation of schools, and the decades after.
The donations, Murray said, “certainly help” in, though it’s too early to tell if they will help HBCUs level up financially. He added that more , not just at notable HBCUs like Spelman and Morehouse but also at lesser-known institutions such as Tougaloo College in Mississippi and Talladega College in Alabama. HBCUs have “turned out some of the greatest minds and change agents that this has ever seen,” Murray said. “But with significant resources on par with what they produce for the country, the institutions would turn out even more.”