A Rising Force: On the State of Black Philanthropy

by Ade Adeniji 

Thanks to a few hundred years of slavery and Jim Crow, followed by decades of economic exclusion, African American households have far less wealth than whites. In fact, according to a recent study by Demos and the Institute on Assets and Social Policy, the typical black household now has just 6 percent of the wealth of the typical white household.

This deep racial wealth gap wouldn't seem to bode well for black philanthropy. In fact, though, black Americans have a long history of philanthropic commitment. A report by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation a few years ago found that African Americans give away 25 percent more of their income per year than white Americans. With the cohort of people of color growing in size and assets, these populations will likely be even more important down the line. As we recently reported, a number of African Americans, as well as Latinos, are already giving at a substantial level.

This rising philanthropic muscle has been on display in fundraising for the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), set to open later this month after years in the making. Aside from established foundations like Mellon, Gates and Atlantic Philanthropies, the museum's top donors also include black Americans like billionaires Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan and Robert F. Smith, as well as Shonda Rhimes, Kenneth Chenault and Richard Parsons.

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