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Foundation Expands Support for Black Education Leaders

April 28, 2021
Grant to The 1954 Project will support Black educators and leaders committed to advancing the social and economic mobility of students across the United States

The 1954 Project will receive a $15 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation. The 1954 Project, an initiative of the Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education (The CAFE), supports Black education leaders and engages Black philanthropists to increase economic and social mobility for students, diversify the teaching profession and drive innovation in teaching and learning to accelerate student success.

“The 1954 Project will nurture, elevate and accelerate the brilliance of Black education leaders,” said Melinda Wright, senior program officer at the Walton Family Foundation. “By galvanizing Black philanthropists and recognizing and supporting Black leaders, The 1954 Project is poised for transformative impact.”

The 1954 Project launched in November 2020 with seed funding from the Walton Family Foundation and The CAFE. In April 2021, The 1954 Project announced grants totaling $5 million to five Black nonprofit leaders to accelerate their impact. These “Luminaries” include Aimée Eubanks Davis of Braven, Sharif El-Mekki of the Center for Black Educator Development, Nicole Lynn Lewis of Generation Hope, Adrian Mims of the Calculus Project and Hiewet Senghor of the Black Teacher Collaborative.

“Together with the Walton Family Foundation, The 1954 Project is ensuring that Black leaders in education have the support they need to achieve their goals and realize the promise of quality education for all of our children,” said Liz Thompson, co-founder and president of The CAFE. “We are hopeful this gift will inspire many others to invest in the deep reservoir of talent in our communities and engage across the broader education landscape to elevate educators like our Luminaries – and beyond.”

The Walton Family Foundation supports leaders of color working to solve complex and urgent K-12 education challenges inhibiting the social and economic mobility of children across the country. To advance the work of putting opportunity and a self-determined life in reach of every child, the foundation supports entrepreneurs and innovators with creative ideas that are responsive to the needs of communities nationally.

About the Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About The 1954 Project 
The 1954 Project is a philanthropic initiative focused on embracing Black leadership in the education sector in order to fulfill the promise of quality education for ALL. Led by the Black community with a goal of raising $100 million, in partnership with allies, the 1954 project exists at the intersection of education, leadership, and giving. Learn more at