News Release

Southern Education Foundation Receives $6 Million Gift from MacKenzie Scott

MEDIA CONTACT:  Gretchen Wright,, (202) 421-5830 

March 24, 2022 (Atlanta, GA)–The Southern Education Foundation (SEF), a 155-year-old nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing education equity and opportunity in the South, today announced that it has received a gift of $6 million from noted philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. SEF will use the unrestricted gift for general support of its programs.

The oldest civil rights and education organization in the South, SEF focuses its work on three strategic areas: government affairs and advocacy, leadership development, and research and policy. The organization dates back to 1867 when Northern philanthropist George Peabody established the George Peabody Fund following the Civil War to educate the newly emancipated population, their children, and poor White children. In 1937, the Peabody Fund merged with three other foundations, the Anna T. Jeanes Fund, the Virginia Randolph Fund, and the John Slater Fund to create the Southern Education Foundation.

SEF’s long and storied history includes establishing a system of public education in the South, supporting the establishment and expansion of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, housing the research team supporting the lawyers who argued the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, and establishing public kindergarten in the South, among other accomplishments.

“This generous and unsolicited gift from MacKenzie Scott will help to support the Southern Education Foundation’s ongoing work to advance equity of education and opportunity for Black students, other students of color, and students from low-income families across the South,” said SEF President and CEO Raymond Pierce. “We are at a pivotal point in our nation’s history. A point when many of the gains made over the last decades are being threatened by attempts to erase the history and the historic achievements of people of color and other marginalized populations in the United States and roll back efforts to achieve diversity and equity. I am proud that Ms. Scott has recognized and supported the Southern Education Foundation at this time as we pursue our historic mission to work toward a world where every student, regardless of background, enjoys an education that propels them toward the opportunity-rich life they deserve.”


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Originally founded in 1867 to educate Black children and children from low-income families in the South, the Southern Education Foundation also has a long history of developing leaders in education and was a pivotal source of research and data to support legislation and litigation aimed at fighting inequity in education during the civil rights era. The organization today conducts leadership development, research, and advocacy to improve educational opportunities for students of color and students from low-income families and achieve educational equity in the southern U.S. It is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Find out more at