When African American businessman Robert F. Smith declared during a Morehouse College commencement speech that he would pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of about 400 young men from the historically black school, he provoked a frenzy. Footage of the jubilant graduates immediately went viral, with an outpouring of hot takes on what the news meant.
As a historian of philanthropy, here’s what caught my eye: Smith said that he was making this roughly US$40 million gift on behalf of eight generations of his family with American roots.
On top of paying tribute to his ancestors, I see this generous act as an extension of the underappreciated heritage of African American philanthropy that began soon after the first enslaved Africansdisembarked in Virginia in 1619.
Source: 400 years of black giving: From the days of slavery to the 2019 Morehouse graduation : The Conversation
Democracy seemed ascendant after the rivalry between communist and democratic states subsided in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. As elected governments replaced many toppled totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, number of democracies rose.
Yet with rare exceptions, authoritarian leadership and other undemocratic governments have been the norm throughout human history. So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that democracy seems to be losing ground after its post-1991 surge. The rise of Recep Tayyip Erdoğanin Turkey, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, and Donald Trump in the U.S. are among the most visible examples.
As a human rights attorney completing my Ph.D. in international relations, I’m researching why democracy appears to be declining around the globe. In addition to the growing number of far-right, authoritarian-leaning leaders who certainly bear responsibility, lawmakers in historically strong democracies are proposing and passing legislation that adds new layers of red tape, restricts access to foreign financial support, and makes it harder and riskier to engage in peaceful protests.
From India to Poland to Israel, legislators are limiting the freedom of independent nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations. Many of these groups are responsible for holding governments to account, standing up for minority rights and providing services to the indigent, among other critical roles.
My research focuses on the spread of undemocratic civil society laws in historically democratic states. These laws include bills that impose new restrictions on forming, operating and funding civil society
Source: Laws are chipping away at democracy around the world : The Conversation