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Dillard: $5M gift to create civil rights, other internships

November 21, 2021 GMT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A historically Black university in New Orleans says a $5 million gift will create civil rights and public interest internships for students.

Dillard University is getting the largest of seven donations announced Thursday by a law firm that represented Maryland’s four historically Black colleges and universities in a 15-year legal fight for equal funding.

The $577 million settlement included $22 million in legal costs. The Kirkland & Ellis firm, which had donated its work, says it’s giving its share to HBCUs, nonprofits and community organizations that helped it.

The gift to Dillard’s Center for Racial Justice will create an endowment for paid internships at various civil rights and public interest organizations, the university said in a news release.

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Other donations include $3 million to Morgan State University’s Robert M. Bell Center for Civil Rights in Education; $2 million to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; and $1 million to the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.

The rest goes to Howard University’s Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, and the HBCU scholarship fund of the African Methodist Episcopal Church Second District.

Each recipient helped with the case, the law firm said.

Dillard spokesman Eddie Francis said Dillard students spent time with lead attorney Michael Jones discussing equitable funding for HBCUs. “Their feedback provided valuable insight into how historical underfunding has adversely affected HBCU students,” Francis said in an email.

The gift to Howard University will create endowed and operating funds for the center’s racial justice and advancement program initiatives. That will include money for civil rights and public interest organization fellowships for students from HBCUs in Maryland and nationally.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law also represented students, faculty and alumni who said the four institutions had never been fairly funded. It is creating fellowships for current HBCU law school students and for undergraduate students and alumni interested in civil rights litigation and policy, Kirkland & Ellis said.

The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education will use its donation to fund fellowships and paid internships, including on Capitol Hill.