Tyrone Freeman, Ph.D., director of undergraduate programs and assistant professor of philanthropic studies, discusses Black Philanthropy Month and how African-Americans have been philanthropists for generations. Watch the video above and read the transcription below to learn more.
Black Philanthropy Month is a great time to recognize that African-Americans have been philanthropists from Day One.
In every era of American history, African-Americans have used philanthropy in a variety of ways. They used it for daily survival, to meet needs, to pool resources, to care for each other, and to help each other get by, whether enslaved or whether free.
They used it to develop their communities, to build schools, to provide services in the face of broader discrimination and segregation. They have certainly used it to bring about social change.
Think about abolition, the Civil Rights Movement, even contemporary movements surrounding mass incarceration, or other concerns in the community. All of these are a part of the traditions of giving in African-American philanthropy.
But there’s another way that they’ve also used it, and that’s to express their humanity, their dignity, and their generosity in the face of a world that has regularly denied them all three.
So, when LeBron James starts a school in his hometown for kids that were just like him when he was a little boy, that’s not a random act. He’s part of this long history of African-American philanthropists providing educational opportunities for their communities in the face of a larger system that’s insufficient at best but grossly discriminatory at worst.
So he joins the likes of people like Bishop Daniel Payne of the AME Church, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Lucy Laney, even Marva Collins. These philanthropists who stood up and provided education for their communities.
But it’s not just about LeBron and other millionaires and billionaires, it’s about you and me. If you’re an usher at your church, and you welcome people into service every week, you’re a philanthropist. If you volunteer as a coach, and you pour yourself into the lives of young people, you’re a philanthropist. If you’re part of a giving circle, you pool your resources together with other like-minded people, to start a scholarship, or to provide some other service in the community, you’re a philanthropist.
And you’ve got 400 years of history standing behind you.