Confusion as UNCF Announces First-Ever Black Chair of the Board


Atlanta business and civic leader Milton H. Jones, Jr. has been elected Chair of the UNCF (United Negro College Fund) Board of Directors, becoming the first-ever African American to hold that position.

But the news has left many scratching their heads, wondering who has been heading the organization for this long. How has UNCF never before had a Black chair in its all of 77-year history.

It’s fair that one would assume that a “negro” would have at some point, chaired the board.

Alas, no.

Jones succeeds William F. Stasior, Sr., who retired from the position.

“Since 1944, UNCF has played an integral role in changing the life trajectory for each student it has served, and l look forward to continuing that legacy,” said Milton Jones in the official press release. “Our member institutions and students remain the focus of our collective efforts. As we progress each year, we will grow our organization by building upon the strong foundation laid at UNCF’s inception and strengthened throughout its history.”

The UNCF tweeted the news, but after the backlash on social media–it was quickly deleted. Maybe it was not such a good idea for the UNCF not to have publicized Milton’s appointment.

What is the UNCF?

The UNCF was founded in 1944 by Dr. Frederick D. Patterson. The UNCF made history as the first cooperative fundraising venture in American higher education and strived to make private Black colleges more financially sound.

In 1987, Dr. Patterson was decorated with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Ronald Reagan.

Let’s be honest, this is not a moment to be proud of. Perhaps for Milton, but not for the UNCF, which has been led by rich, white men for its entire history.

“All of us at UNCF are excited to have Milton become our new Board Chair,” said UNCF President and CEO Michael L. Lomax, who has known and worked with Jones for over four decades. “Milton brings a wealth of business knowledge and a thoughtful and collaborative leadership approach that will help us thrive and continue to drive UNCF’s and our HBUCs’ impact and growth.”

Prior to his election as Board Chair, Jones served as Vice-Chair of the Board and Chair of the Finance Committee. He has been a member of the UNCF board since 2005.

While the history-making news has been (rightfully) met with some questions, the reaction to the announcement proves that it is absolutely time for a change.

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