America’s Leading Black Philanthropists

From education to health, African Americans pump billions into charities and causes, fueling their clout and mission to change the world

a variety of philanthropic gifts in the areas of arts, education, and services for children and young adults.

“I was in charge of all of the philanthropic ventures that BET was involved in. I was the one who made all of those decisions. So as BET went into Viacom and I was out on my own, [being a philanthropist] was always a part of me.”

Today, Johnson, 56, now resides in Middleburg, Virginia. She’s using her business skills to build Salamander Hospitality and to expand the Washington International Horse Show. She recently made history as the first black woman to be an owner in three professional sports franchises (see Newspoints, this issue).

But none of this trumps Johnson’s philanthropic endeavors. She has contributed $7 million to New York’s Parsons School of Design; $2 million to the United Negro College Fund; $1 million to Bennett College for Women; and $7 million to build a performing arts center at the Hill School, where her son attends grade school in Middleburg. And while these are her larger philanthropic contributions, she says that she has made smaller contributions such as giving $50,000 to the local community children’s choir. In 2004, Johnson and Microsoft joined together to donate $1 million to help the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children launch a global campaign against child pornography.

So what does Johnson find challenging about being one of America’s top black philanthropists? “Being able to say no,” she says. “There are so many people, and once you start to give to an organization, the network passes on and then everybody and their brother has their hand out.” —Kenneth Meeks

EDDIE & SYLVIA BROWN The Power of Service Eddie C. Brown, president of Brown Capital Management Inc. (No. 4 on the 2005 BE ASSET MANAGERS list with $5.2 billion under management), is a prominent businessman in Baltimore. He’s also one of the most renowned stock pickers in the world. His firm has amassed its billions mainly from large institutional clients and pension funds. The 64-year-old asset manager has also earned a reputation as a “good citizen.” He and his wife, Sylvia, have given more than $15 million to various educational and charitable causes, including $1 million to the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore and $6 million to the Maryland Institute College of Art for the Brown Center.

The benevolent couple started the Eddie C. & C. Sylvia Brown Family Foundation back in 1994 with about $200,000. Their two daughters, Tonya Ingersol, who is president, and Jennifer Brown, who serves as vice president, run the foundation. The siblings sit on the five-member board of directors while their parents serve on the grant-making committee.

Brown explains that their main motivation “was to have our daughters think beyond themselves … about others in the African American community who were less fortunate, and to have a vehicle to be able to channel monies to causes they were passionate about.” The Browns chose a charter foundation instead of a charitable remainder trust or other after-death estate vehicles primarily

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