Civic Reflection and African American Philanthropy

Mar 11 2015
Participants in facilitation training in Charlotte, NC E Lynn and V Fullwood

An innovative exhibit showcasing African American philanthropy opened at Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) in Charlotte, NC on February 20, 2015. Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited includes personal vignettes, reflections, and black-and-white images from the book Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists by author Valaida Fullwood and photographer Charles W. Thomas Jr. Giving Back received the McAdam Book Award, which honors “the most inspirational and useful new book for the nonprofit sector,” and was named one of the 10 Best Black Books of 2011.

In the gallery guide to the exhibit, Valaida Fullwood notes that African American philanthropy is often neglected or misunderstood. Although the media tend to represent African Americans solely as receivers or beneficiaries of philanthropy, in fact African Americans give a higher percentage of their discretionary income to charity than any other racial group. The exhibit is designed to address this disparity and to honor, through representative examples, the many African Americans whose philanthropy has shaped their communities and the nation. Fullwood received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to create the exhibit, which uses CCR founder and director Elizabeth Lynn and Susan B. Wisely’s influential essay Four Traditions of Philanthropy (available for free download here) as a conceptual framework.

A few weeks before the exhibit opened, Elizabeth Lynn led a facilitation training for twenty African American leaders in Charlotte who will guide conversations on philanthropy and civic engagement as part of the exhibit programming. Participants, who ranged in age from young people in their 20s through retirees, represented diverse organizations and backgrounds.  They were united by their engagement in African American philanthropy, understood broadly as the giving of “time, talent, treasure and truth.”  The group used stories and pictures from Giving Back and the exhibit as objects of reflection and launching points for conversation.  

The Giving Back exhibit will be on display until mid-April at JSCU’s James B. Duke Memorial Library, then travel until June 2016 to historically black colleges and universities and cultural institutions nationwide. 

Edit Back to News & Events