JCSU to host exhibit on African-American philanthropy

A $100,000 grant will allow Johnson C. Smith University to create a traveling exhibit to showcase African-American philanthropy.

The money comes from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and will fund “Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited.” For two years beginning in 2015, the exhibit will be shared with historically black colleges and universities and cultural institutions throughout the South.

The exhibition will use photographs and stories from Valaida Fullwood’s 2011 book “Giving Back: a Tribute to Generations of African-American Philanthropy.” Narratives of African-American giving are often underrepresented, Fullwood said, and the exhibit offers a chance to illuminate stories that otherwise would not be told.

“We aren’t part of the national discourse around philanthropy, and when we are, it’s as the beneficiaries and recipients and people in need,” Fullwood said. “That’s part of the story, but there’s a fuller, richer, wider story beyond that.”

The exhibit will be organized by JCSU’s James B. Duke Memorial Library. In addition to stories, photographs and multimedia components, it will include community programming that encourages people to share their own stories of philanthropy and learn about new ways to give, Fullwood said.

The exhibit will focus on the stories of regular people, showing that not only the rich or famous can be philanthropic, said Monika Rhue, director of library services for JCSU.

“I call them little heroes – people who give in their church, who give at work. Those stories are always hidden,” Rhue said. “This project will shed light on those ordinary people.”

Fullwood and JCSU began speaking about the possibility of an exhibit last year, and the university is operating under “an aggressive timeline” to have the exhibit completed by early 2015, Rhue said.

From the time she began working on the book, Fullwood said, she knew that a museum exhibition would be an effective way to spread its message – “to take it off the pages of the book and into the community.”

Fullwood noted that although the exhibit shows African-American philanthropy specifically, the message is accessible to everyone and can inspire anyone to be more giving.

“While our exhibition focuses on philanthropy through the experience and lens of African-Americans, the stories and the impact of the philanthropy transcend race and generation and socioeconomic level,” Fullwood said.