Billionaire Robert Smith’s $20M Donation to African-American Museum is Second Only to Oprah’s

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Robert Smith (Facebook)
Robert Smith (Facebook)

A Black billionaire nearly donated as much money as Oprah Winfrey to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

According to The Washington Post, Robert Smith donated $20 million to the Smithsonian’s new museum dedicated to Black history. His private gift is the second largest behind Winfrey, who gave $21 million.

Smith – chairman and chief executive of Vista Equity Partners – told the newspaper about how the NMAAHC used his contribution.

“We wanted it to be a living, interactive museum where we tell our own stories of ourselves our way,” said Smith, who Forbes reported is worth $2.5 billion.

In order to do that, his funds helped with the digitization of photographs, videos and music of many different African-Americans. They included famous individuals like Martin Luther King Jr. and everyday people.

“This museum says that we African-Americans are at the center of it all,” Smith told the Washington newspaper. “And now there is a creative and elegant building that is not just a temple, but is alive.”

Part of the living space involves a history center named after Smith. The center includes a library, education center and archives to allow visitors to explore their links to Black history.

Additionally, Smith’s hefty sum gave the museum the ability to archive photos from individual families and other establishments like Harlem’s Apollo Theater.

But Smith’s African-American charity did not start with the Smithsonian’s new museum.

His Fund II Foundation gave $3 million to a program at non-profit group NPower Inc. The Baltimore organization recently organized a free technical career seminar for Black veterans and youth.

In January, the foundation gave $30 million to Cornell University combined with a $20 million personal donation from Smith. He wanted his funds to increase the Black and female students enrolled at the university’s engineering school. Of the 5,000 pupils, just 3 percent of the students are Black. Meanwhile, 42 percent are female, according to the school’s dean Lance Collins.

Last year, Atlanta Black Star reported Smith offered to pay for the education of 21 escaped Chibok girls at the American University of Nigeria.

“We’ve got the Black Lives Matter campaign going on [in the U.S.] at the moment, and these girls matter too,” Smith told The Guardian in 2015. “Their lives matter not just because of the events that happened, but just because their lives matter.”

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