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Nonprofit Leaders 4min read

Black Philanthropists in Media

You’ve seen them on your TV screen; these household names support a list of causes almost as long as their portfolio of work. From health to education to disaster relief, they’ve contributed millions of dollars to support communities around the world. Here are some big names giving on and off the screen.

Oprah Winfrey   

Known as a media executive, actress, talk show host, television producer and most importantly a philanthropist, Winfrey has been dubbed the “Queen of All Media”and one of the richest African Americans of the 20th century. As North America’s first black multi-billionaire and the greatest Black philanthropist in American history, she has given away over $400 million to educational causes and donated $12 million to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

Will and Jada Pinkett Smith   

This power couple is well known for their successful acting career and their social media presence, but many don’t know that they are also philanthropists. In 1996, they started the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, focusing on three specific areas: Arts & Education, Social Empowerment and Sustainability. The foundation has awarded millions of dollars through numerous grants across the country, with significant giving in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Los Angeles.

Alicia Keys   

Superstar, singer-songwriter, musician, record producer, and philanthropist, Alicia Keys was born during a time when the AIDS epidemic was gaining a lot of attention in the US. She was first affected by the HIV/AIDs crisis at 8 years old, when her mother’s friend died from the disease. This family tragedy led her to co-found and become the Global Ambassador of Keep a Child Alive, a nonprofit that puts medicine in the hands of families with HIV/AIDS in Africa. Keys visited several African countries such as Uganda and Kenya to promote care for children affected by AIDS. Her work was documented in Alicia in Africa: Journey to the Motherland, which was released in April 2008.

Tyler Perry  

Forbes has listed him as the highest paid man in entertainment. Tyler Perry is an award-winning Atlanta based director, actor, writer, and philanthropist worth an estimated $800 million. In 2006, he founded the Perry Foundation with a mission of investing in those who’ve undergone tragedies and supporting underserved communities in hopes to foster real change. His foundation focuses on the areas of education, civil rights, agriculture, economic development, and girls and women’s rights, among others. The Perry Foundation has donated millions of dollars benefiting disadvantaged communities across the county.   

John Legend  

Grammy award-winning artist and philanthropist John Legend founded the Show Me Campaign with the mission to give every child access to a quality education. Through programs such as Teach for America, Teach for All, Harlem Village Academies, and New Profit, the Show Me Campaign works to elevate and celebrate teachers, the single most important factor for student achievement in schools. The campaign also works to end the school-to-prison pipeline and address systemic issues in our criminal justice system that disproportionately impact the poor, minorities and disadvantaged. Legend is breaking the cycle of poverty with education by reinventing the way children are taught.  

Tom Joyner  

Known as “the hardest working man in radio” and host of the nationally syndicated The Tom Joyner Morning Show, he founded the Tom Joyner Foundation in 1998. The foundation supports historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) with scholarships, endowments, and capacity-building enhancements. In its 19-year history, the foundation has provided necessary support to every HBCU to help sustain and preserve the legacies of these valuable institutions. Through fundraising and donor development initiatives, $65 million has been raised to support more than 29,000 students attending HBCUs.  

These Black philanthropists and many more in media have contributed so much to society, both personally and through their organizations, especially to at-risk and marginalized groups. Their legacy of philanthropy is making history by changing our society for the better.   

About the Author

Basha Coleman