Johnson C. Smith University is making it its duty to tell the untold narrative about philanthropy in the black community.

Thanks to a $96,665 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the James B. Duke Memorial Library at JCSU is launching a traveling art exhibit that will highlight the cultural tradition of giving back within the African American community. The two-year project will be titled “Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited,” and it will travel to HBCUs and cultural institutions across the South, providing artful photography and first-person narratives about the history of black philanthropy.

“This grant demonstrates the university’s vision to enjoy strong community relations and strategic partnerships with businesses, corporations and professional organizations,”  Monika Rhue, director of the James B. Duke Memorial Library and director of the project says.

According to a release, partners of the project include Bennett College, The Black Benefactors,, Blair Caldwell African American Research Library, Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, Foundation for the Mid South, Levine Museum of the New South, Prairie View A&M University, and The Denver Foundation. In addition, the JCSU library staff will work with author Valaida Fullwood, photographer Charles Thomas and members of the giving circle New Generation of African American Philanthropists (NGAAP-Charlotte) to help design and curate the exhibition. The project will also contain original photos and stories from the book Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African-American Philanthropy.

The project’s director, Rhue, says that the exhibition will provide a comprehensive story about giving back in the black community, and highlighting the point that African Americans give a higher percentage of their income to charitable causes more than any other racial group in America.

“Our aim has been to use artful photography and storytelling to ignite a movement of conscientious philanthropy by empowering a generation of Americans to recognize their power and responsibility to give back,” Fullwood adds.


Art industryEducationHbcuHigher educationJohnson c. smith universityPhilanthropy

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