Law Firm To Gift HBCUs Dillard University, Morgan State, Howard, Portion of $12M Case Settlement

An HBCU in New Orleans, Dillard University plans to use a fresh $5 million gift to create civil rights and public interest internships for students.

The institution landed the largest of seven donations announced by a law firm that represented Maryland’s historically Black colleges and universities in a 15-year legal battle for equal funding, per US News.

The Kirkland & Ellis law firm is donating $12.5 million to colleges and nonprofits from the fees it was awarded when the case settled, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The case was settled this year when state lawmakers approved hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funding for the HBCUs in future state budgets. The firm,  which took the lawsuit pro bono, is giving its share to HBCUs, nonprofits and community organizations.

Along with the $5 million to the Dillard University Center for Racial Justice, other donations include $3 million to Morgan State University’s Robert M. Bell Center for Civil Rights in Education; $2 million to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; and $1 million to the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.

The remainder will go to Howard University’s Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, and the HBCU scholarship fund of the African Methodist Episcopal Church Second District.

The law firm disclosed each recipient assisted with the case.

Dillard spokesman Eddie Francis reported the university’s students spent time with lead attorney Michael Jones discussing equitable funding for HBCUs. “Their feedback provided valuable insight into how historical underfunding has adversely affected HBCU students,” Francis stated by email.

The gift to Howard University will create endowed and operating funds for the center’s racial justice and advancement program initiatives. That will include money for civil rights and public interest organization fellowships for students from HBCUs in Maryland and nationally.

Under the law that was passed and the legal settlement, for the next decade, an extra $57.7 million per year will be divided among Coppin State University and Morgan State University in Baltimore, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, based on a news release.