By Alicia Philipp, president
I have had the pleasure of knowing and learning from the authors, Martin Lehfeldt and Jamil Zainaldin, for many decades. I was held captive by The Liberating Promise of Philanthropy: Stories of Grant-Makers in the South, their almost 400-page book, so much so that I read it in 24 hours!
The authors deal honestly with the history of the South, particularly race and enslavement, intertwining this history from the country’s founding to the present with the role of philanthropy. Even after over 40 years in philanthropy, I was surprised to learn the depth and breadth of Northern philanthropy to the South and the pivotal role it played in the education of formerly enslaved people.
It was interesting to follow the trajectory of the growth of indigenous Southern philanthropy and its mostly, very place-based focus. Southern philanthropy moved from a penchant for building civic institutions that primarily served whites, toward a true partnership with nonprofit organizations that moved people from a state of dependency to the direction of self-sufficiency, all the while contributing to building a truly thriving democratic society.
For me, this book fills in so many gaps in my knowledge of history and its relation to philanthropy and it gives us a blueprint for the next generation of Southern philanthropy.