It’s the biggest gift so far by any individual or couple for racial justice.
Netflix founder Reed Hastings is making the single biggest donation, by a couple or an individual, to racial justice in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, putting $120 million into America’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
The donations from Hastings and his wife, Patty Quillin, are the first announced commitments to exceed $100 million from any billionaire philanthropist couple for this cause. The gift speaks to how some of Silicon Valley’s wealthiest are trying to marshal their resources to support nonprofits that bridge racial gaps, even though it’s to be determined whether tech companies will actually usher in more fundamental change in Silicon Valley’s power structure.
Hastings will donate $40 million each to two of America’s most prominent HBCUs, Morehouse College and Spelman College, and another $40 million to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), which funds scholarships for historically black schools. The donations will add considerably to the endowments of the HBCUs, which on average are less than half the size of those of other colleges. Spelman’s endowment sits at $390 million; Morehouse’s at $145 million; and UNCF’s at $100 million.
Billionaires are confronting more skepticism than ever about their philanthropy and the tax breaks they get from it, especially gifts to elite colleges with massive endowments. Gifts to HBCUs may be easier to defend, considering the underrepresented populations they serve and their smaller endowments. Still, some advocates may argue that the federal government could fund these schools more heavily if taxes were raised on people like Hastings.
“Both of us had the privilege of a great education and we want to help more students — in particular students of color — get the same start in life,” the couple said in a statement. “We hope this additional $120 million donation will help more Black students follow their dreams and also encourage more people to support these institutions — helping to reverse generations of inequity in our country.”
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