African American Scholarship

A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

These words of wisdom are the official slogan for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), a philanthropic organization that provides college tuition and scholarship funds at universities and colleges that cater to the African American student.

Frederick D. Patterson, who was president of the school now known as Tuskegee University, incorporated the African American scholarship program in 1944, in Fairfax, Virginia.  Although established with the African American student in mind, funds from the program are open to students of all ethnicities and at colleges and universities outside the UNCF’s 39 member colleges.

Statistics for the year 2005 indicate the UNCF African American scholarship program supported 65,000 students with grants and scholarships of approximately $113 million.  These students were enrolled at more than 900 different educational institutions.

Of the 65,000 students enrolled in 2005, 60% of them were the first members of their families to attend college.  Family incomes of 62% of the students were less than $25,000 per year.

In addition to the general African American scholarship fund, UNCF administers 450 specifically named scholarships.

UNCF alumni include some of the nation’s most talented leaders and entertainers.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., not only led the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, he also received a Nobel Peace Prize.

Former US Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman was a recipient of the UNCF’s African American scholarship program as were Dr. David Satcher (former US Surgeon General and director of the Centers for Disease Control) and General Chappie James (the first African American four-star general in the US Air Force).  Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson are UNCF alumni also.

John F. Kennedy, former US president and author of the book Profiles in Courage, donated all profits from the sale of his book to the UNCF.

Singer Lou Rawls established an annual telethon to generated donations to the UNCF.  “An Evening of Stars,” as his telethon is known, raised more than $200 million from its inception in 1980 until his death in 1980.  His last performance was taping a segment of the telethon honoring Stevie Wonder.

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