The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) this month launched a center meant to promote the expansion of educational, social and economic opportunities within “fragile communities” with the help of a $25.6 million endowment from Charles Koch Foundation and Koch Industries.

TMCF
The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF)

The Fund represents 47 publically supported HBCUs and is the second major Black higher education organization to accept funding from the foundation and the company, which is owned by the infamous siblings Charles and David Koch.

TMCF’s Center for Advancing Opportunity will fund faculty research into education, criminal justice and other matters impacting vulnerable communities, and surveys of those communities. It will also provide scholarships for students attending HBCUs.

“This is a momentous partnership,” Johnny C. Taylor Jr., president and CEO of TMCF said in a statement. “Historically Black Colleges and Universities are uniquely positioned to lead the field in this research. There are thousands of fragile communities across the United States where there are tremendous barriers to opportunity. And it’s important to recognize that lasting change to strengthen these communities must begin at the local level.”

Charles Koch said he was pleased to partner with the organization to advance this cause.

“Education transformed my life, and I’ve committed to do all I can to give others that same opportunity,” said Koch, chairman of the board and CEO of Koch Industries. “TMCF has made that same commitment. TMCF is giving students and scholars the chance to discover new ways to overcome barriers holding too many people back. As they succeed, so does our society.”

In June 2014, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) – which supports private HBCUs – accepted a similarly large donation in the amount of $25 million from the Koch brothers. The UNCF’s acceptance of the donation prompted swift backlash from African-American activists and groups, who pointed to the conservative brothers’ shady reputation as the puppet masters and primary funders of Republican politicians and groups dedicated to disenfranchising Black voters, suppressing reform of minimum wage laws, stymieing action on climate change and other harmful policies. UNCF President Michael Lomax’s subsequent appearance at a Koch brothers’ political retreat in California spawned further criticism, and AFSCME, a majority-Black labor union that had long partnered with the UNCF, cut its ties with the nonprofit.

“Dr. Lomax’s deeply disappointing actions in lending support to the Koch brothers’ agenda have made AFSCME’s continuing partnership with UNCF untenable,” the group stated in a resolution announcing its break with the UNCF. “AFSCME proudly works with individuals and organizations representing a wide range of political views, but we refuse to join forces with those, such as the Koch brothers, who seek to drive us out of existence and do irreparable harm to workers and the middle class.”