Multinational corporations such as General Motors and corporate tycoons head the list of the largest donors toward the construction of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C.
On Aug. 28, President Obama will lead a phalanx of dignitaries and celebrities, including Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Star Wars’ George Lucas, Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Hudson, to unveil the 30-foot granite sculpture of King on the National Mall with a series of concerts, events and the dedication ceremony.
Harry S. Johnson, the former president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. that received permission from President Bill Clinton to begin construction of the the MLK Memorial, is now the president and CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project. He told rolling out in December 2010 that the project was $12 million short of the $120 million needed to complete the project. And with about a week to go until the historic ceremony, the MLK Memorial has only made up half of that debt total.
This is just a partial list of entities and individuals who’ve contributed considerable sums toward the completion of the MLK Memorial:
General Motors: $10 million
Tommy Hilfiger: $6 million
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity: $3.5 million
NBA: $3 million
Bill and Melinda Gates: $3 million
Walt Disney Co.: $2.7 million
Toyota: $2.5 million
Verizon: $2 million
Delta Airlines: $1.5 million
General Electric: $1.2 million
FedEx: $1 million
Sheila Johnson, BET co-founder: $1 million
NFL Players Association: $1 million
George Lucas, Star Wars creator: $1 million
Viacom/BET/MTV: $1 million
Wal-Mart: $1 million
Morehouse College: $500,000
Procter & Gamble: $431,200
American Federation of Teachers: $300,000
Lehman Brothers: $250,000
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority: $170,000
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority: $137,000
General Mills: $100,000
The Embassy of South Africa: $100,000
Some would be surprised at the names that did not make the list of $100,000 contributors. Seven years ago, Johnson said he established what he called a “dream team” of entertainers who leveraged their fame to help with the fundraising campaign. But they, for whatever reason, did not contribute a large amount to the memorial construction:
Samuel L. Jackson
This is not to cast aspersions at any of these African American celebrities. We know, for example, that Muhammad Ali risked his freedom, his career and his life when he spurned Christianity and the Vietnam draft to align himself with Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam in the fight for human rights in the 1960s. Samuel L. Jackson was kicked off Morehouse College campus temporarily in the ’70s when, as a student, he helped hold Martin Luther King’s father and others hostage and demanded a more African-centered curriculum. Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey have donated tens of millions of their own money toward the establishment and maintenance of schools domestically and abroad.
Black philanthropy tends to focus almost exclusively in two specific areas: education and religious institutions. And now that we have arrived at the 11th hour of the MLK Memorial construction, blacks of means will probably help close that conspicuous $6 million gap, according to Susan Batten, president and CEO of the Association of Black Foundation Executives.