This fellowship’s programming and network has made me feel part of an intellectual community and conversation that always seeks to advance a healthy and productive approach toward my career. I am not aware of any other program that is as committed to its fellows and scholars over the course of their intellectual lives.
Department of American Studies and Ethnicity
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Mission
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was established as a nonprofit philanthropic organization in June of 1969 with a mission to “aid and promote such religious, charitable, scientific, literary, and educational purposes as may be in the furtherance of the public welfare or tend to promote the well-doing or well-being of mankind.” In 1988, under the broad charter, the Foundation made a long-term commitment to help remedy the serious shortage of faculty of color in higher education through the Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program.
In 2003, the Foundation reaffirmed its commitment and broadened the mission of MMUF. The name of the program was changed to the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program, to symbolically connect the mission to the stellar educational achievements of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays. The fundamental objective of MMUF is to increase the number of minority students, and other with a demonstrated commitment to eradicating racial disparities, who will pursue PhDs in core fields in the arts and sciences. The program aims to reduce over time the serious underrepresentation on the faculties of individuals from certain minority groups, as well as to address the attendant educational consequences of these disparities. The program serves the related goals of structuring campus environments so that they will be more conducive to improved racial and ethnic relations, and of providing role models for all youth.
MMUF aims to achieve its mission by identifying and supporting students of great promise and helping them to become scholars of the highest distinction.
Benjamin Elijah Mays, educator, was born in 1895 in South Carolina, and graduated from Bates College in Maine in 1920. He went to the University of Chicago for his master’s degree and doctorate, and while he was working on those degrees, he was ordained into the Baptist ministry. He taught at Morehouse College and at South Carolina State College. From 1934 to 1940, he served as dean of the Howard University School of Religion and then moved on to the presidency of Morehouse College, a position he distinguished for the next quarter of a century. He also served his community well, becoming the first black president of the Atlanta school board.
He spoke early and often against segregation and for education. He received nearly thirty honorary doctorates and other honors and awards including election to the Schomburg Honor Roll of Race Relations, one of a dozen major leaders so honored. He had been a model for one of his Morehouse students, Martin Luther King, Jr., and he served the young minister as an unofficial senior adviser. He gave the eulogy at King’s funeral. Among his books were the first sociological study of African-American religion, The Negro’s Church, published in 1933; and The Negro’s God, of 1938; Disturbed about Man, of 1969; and his autobiography, Born to Rebel, of 1971. These books reveal a combination of sharp intellect with religious commitment and prophetic conviction.