United Negro College Fund elects first Black chair – seriously.

ATLANTA, GA. – Since its founding in 1944, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Board of Directors has never been led by a Black person. Atlanta businessman Milton H. Jones Jr., a board member since 2005, was elected as chairman earlier this month.

According to a release from UNCF, “Jones is a founding member of Peachtree Providence Partners Holding Company, LLC. In this role, he advises and collaborates with client board chairs. He also works with CEO’s and executives in key sectors that include financial services, healthcare, technology, government and higher education. For more than 32 years while at Bank of America, he held a series of senior executive positions. The roles included reporting directly to the Chairman and CEO. He continues to sit on a variety of boards and committees throughout the state.

According to the organization’s website, “UNCF is the largest and most effective minority education organization.” UNCF strategic direction is led by it’s board of directors; meaning for 77 years, a non-Black chairperson has spearheaded the work of the fund.

UNCF provides billions to HBCUs and scholarship recipients

Jones will oversee the strategy and resources for 37 historically Black colleges and universities; including Spelman College, Morehouse College and Tuskegee University. UNCF boasts an approximate $5 billion+ in funds raised. They grant more than 10,000 scholarships per year. And $11 million of the fund goes to students in their top five cities: New York City, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia.

This is not to discount the positive impact UNCF has made in hundreds of thousands of young Black and African-American students’ lives. But this scenario creates questions about big philanthropy and how resources are allocated to communities of color.

This story has thrust HBCUs back into the news cycle, which warrants attention to the historic funding shortages HBCUs face. HBCUs produce more than 16% of all African-American college graduates. But based on a study by the American Council on Education, “both private and public HBCUs experienced the steepest declines in federal funding per full-time equivalent student between 2003 and 2015.  Private HBCUs saw a 42 percent reduction – the most substantial of all sectors.”

Former First Lady Michelle Obama once stated, “education is the single most important civil rights issues that we face today.”

The unequal funding for HBCUs is an undeniable manifestation of that issue. On many occasions, states have been brought to federal court over their inequitable funding programs which unfairly benefit the states’ predominantly White institutions.

Those interested can learn more about the organization at their website.

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