Philanthropy as a Responsibility

“One of the first generous spirits from the private sector to become a major partner in these Reconstruction efforts was George Peabody (1795–1869). A talented financier, Peabody began with virtually nothing and became fabulously wealthy.”

“Years before Andrew Carnegie composed his “Gospel of Wealth,” the prudent Peabody advocated that the new rich had a special responsibility to give back to society. As with Carnegie, Peabody’s humble beginnings together with an open door of opportunity clearly left a mark upon him and contributed to his empathy for those in greatest need.”

[Excerpts taken from The Liberating Promise of Philanthropy.]

The Rural Poor

“Elected in 1932 as the Democratic Party’s candidate for president in an electoral landslide against Herbert Hoover, FDR arrived at the White House as the nation’s deepening slide into the Great Depression grew grimmer by the day. He did not need his inspirationally progressive wife, Eleanor, to tell him about rural poverty, poor public health, destructive agricultural practices, and economic distress. He had already seen those conditions with his own eyes…for him, the rural poor had faces and names.”

A Depression-era bread line in 1932.

Excerpted from The Liberating Promise of Philanthropy.

Liberating Institutions

“Although the Freedmen’s Bureau ceased operations in 1871, many other schools and institutions that would become centers of higher learning for African Americans came into being in the Southern states…out of necessity, many of these institutions that would become private colleges and universities began by offering elementary school curricula and vocational courses. However, within a relatively short time many of the courses of study expanded to include the liberal arts.” Pictured here is Claflin University, South Carolina’s oldest historically-black institution, founded by Methodist missionaries in 1869.

[Excerpt from The Liberating Promise of Philanthropy.]

The main building of Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

On MLK Day, a Look Back at Revolution

“Established in 1932 on two hundred acres near Monteagle, Tennessee, by Myles Horton and Donald West, the Highlander Folk School offered residential adult workshops, initially with mill, timber, and unemployed workers from the surrounding area…’Highlander’s teachers began holding workshops on public school desegregation, nearly a year before the U.S. Supreme Court’s momentous decision in Brown v. Board of Education…college students gathered at the folk school to explore the possible directions and goals for a new era of black protest…”

[Excerpt from The Liberating Promise of Philanthropy and Highlander: No Ordinary School by John Glen.]

Martin Luther King, Jr., Pete Seeger, Charis Horton, Rosa Parks, and Ralph Abernathy and The Highlander School in 1957.

"Global Benevolence"

James Smithson, who left his estate of more than $500,000 to the United States in admiration of its revolutionary attitudes, showed the possibility of philanthropy in our country. He and a group of fellow European scientists “pledged allegiance first of all to truth and reason,” their goal “to be a benefactor of all mankind.” Dramatic words, but Smithson made good on his promise. Pictured here is “the Castle,” finished in 1855, the first of many Smithsonian buildings in Washington, D.C.

Architect James Renwick’s neo-Gothic creation.

[Excerpt taken from The Liberating Promise of Philanthropy.]

Black Belt Community Foundation

Image via mayurankushe,

“The Black Belt region of the South was a fertile plain of rich, dark soil, some thirty miles wide, stretching for three hundred miles across central Alabama and northeastern Mississippi. Pre–Civil War plantations flourished in the area and enriched their owners. Because the plantations were worked by African American slaves, the area’s name in post–Civil War years came to be associated with a predominantly black population dominated by daunting white racism and deeply entrenched poverty and deprivation. Against all sorts of odds a decade ago, Carol and John Zippert, activists and newspaper publishers in Greene County, Alabama, alongside David Wilson, an administrator of Auburn University, set in motion two initiatives that became linked and led to the formation of the Black Belt Community Foundation. It now annually raises and disburses more than $1.5 million and is active in twelve Alabama counties.

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Excerpted from The Liberating Promise of Philanthropy.