The Eartha M.M. White Legacy Fund, Jacksonville’s first major African-American philanthropy, was created as part of the legacy of one of Jacksonville’s early, great philanthropists. In continuing her legacy, the Fund works to encourage and grow giving among African-Americans in Jacksonville in order to strengthen and sustain the resources and institutions that are important to the community.
Eartha Mary Magdalene White was one of Jacksonville’s early philanthropists, following a model established by her mother, Clara White. In the 1880s, the newly widowed Clara White found work in Jacksonville to support herself and the young Eartha. From her meager wages, she shared what she had, helping neighbors and strangers alike. Mother and daughter opened a soup kitchen and, in 1902, established a nursing home for elderly African- Americans that would become the Eartha White Nursing Home. In 1928, they expanded the soup kitchen to create the Clara White Mission for the Indigent. After Clara’s death, Eartha continued and expanded the work they had begun, as well as managing a variety of businesses. She was a licensed real estate broker, owned a dry goods store, a taxi company and a steam laundry, and was the first female employee of the Afro American Life Insurance Company. Historians estimate she accumulated more than $1 million in assets during her lifetime, using almost all of the profits to support her humanitarian ventures. 1 She died in 1974 at the age of 97.
The fund assets ($1.4 million in 2008), trace to the Eartha M.M. White Nursing Home, which was formally incorporated in 1967. In 2003, the assets were sold and the proceeds used to establish the Eartha M.M. White Legacy Fund at The Community Foundation in Jacksonville. The Fund is an endowed advised fund, overseen by a board of 11 advisors, with staff support from The Community Foundation.
Legally established in 2005, the Eartha M.M. White Legacy Fund moved carefully to build its advisory board and determine its mission and grantmaking ideals. The Fund works to honor the legacy of Eartha White by stimulating African-American philanthropy in order to create long-term resources for the community. In its early grantmaking, it has sought to:
More than $500,000 has been awarded or pledged by the Fund during its first five years of operation. Though grants have supported a wide range of organizations and programs, education is a major focus area for the Fund. Grants have supported scholarships and extracurricular learning opportunities, as well as community infrastructure to improve the quality of public education in Duval County.
For more information on the Eartha M.M. White Legacy Fund use the form on our contact page and select: Joanne E. Cohen, Vice President Philanthopic Services.