Last year the First Presidency and leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People stood side by side in the Church Administration Building and announced three education and humanitarian initiatives.
The key initiatives are part of ongoing collaboration between the two organizations and the result of “many discussions and prayerful planning,” said President Russell M. Nelson at the news conference on June 14, 2021.
The three initiatives are:
- Humanitarian efforts. The Church has pledged $2 million per year for the next three years “to encourage service and help to those in need” and promote self-reliance.
- Scholarships for Black students. Latter-day Saints have committed to fund a $1 million scholarship donation per year for three years, overseen by the United Negro College Fund.
- A fellowship to send up to 50 students to Ghana to learn about history. The Church will donate $250,000 to create The Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown Student Fellowship to Ghana — allowing selected students from the United States an opportunity to learn more about their heritage.
In honor of Juneteenth, an update on each initiative was published on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth — short for “June Nineteenth” — is also known as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day. It commemorates the abolition of slavery in the United States. In June 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden signed legislation that made Juneteenth, or June 19, a federal holiday.
On Jan. 1, 1863, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to free enslaved individuals in the Confederate States. Two and half years later, on June 19, 1865, United States federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and enforce the freeing of all enslaved people. Texas was the last state to free slaves. On that day, former slaves began the celebration of Emancipation Day in the streets of Galveston.
In 2022 the Church’s $2 million donation is funding joint humanitarian projects in five U.S. cities — Houston, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; San Francisco, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Washington D.C. Details are being planned with local NAACP leaders in each city.
“These efforts represent an ongoing desire of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to teach and live the two great commandments — to love God and neighbor,” President Nelson said last June.
A total of 58 Black college students have received scholarships. Each scholarship is a $5,000 award for college sophomores that is renewable for three years (a total of $15,000 per student). The scholarships are overseen by the United Negro College Fund.
Of the 58 students who received scholarships in the award’s first year, 37 attended historically Black colleges and universities. Others chose a variety of public and private schools.
Applications are now open until July 12 for the second year of scholarships for incoming sophomores.
The Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown Student Fellowship to Ghana
The fellowship, named after The Rev. Amos C. Brown — the renowned civil rights leader and senior pastor of Third Baptist Church of San Francisco — goes from July 30 to August 11.
The 45 student participants come from colleges and universities throughout the United States and include 15 Latter-day Saints, 15 students chosen by the NAACP and 17 from the Rev. Brown’s congregation in San Francisco. They will travel to Ghana to learn about the origins of the transatlantic slave trade and become ambassadors of racial harmony.
In last year’s news conference, The Rev. Brown said the fund established in his name will change the lives of Black students learning their history.
“This very partnership of NAACP and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be the saving factor to redeem the soul of the United States of America, so that we shall indeed become one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. That is our goal. That is our purpose.”
The Church’s partnership with the NAACP
The Church has an important history with the NAACP. In 2017, local Latter-day Saints helped refurbish the NAACP offices in Jackson, Mississippi. The next year, in May 2018, the First Presidency and NAACP leaders released a joint statement calling for greater civility and racial harmony.
Two months later, the Church announced a historic collaboration between the two organizations and launched a self-reliance initiative. The NAACP and BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School have also worked together on joint projects.
President Nelson spoke at the 110th NAACP annual convention in July 2019. “Arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder, may we strive to lift our brothers and sisters everywhere, in every way we can,” he said.
In June 2020, in a joint op-ed column published by the online platform Medium, President Nelson and NAACP leaders called for racial reform, asking “people everywhere to join us in a journey of understanding and overcoming.”