Inspiring Story – How Franklin Thomas became a part of Black History

Good Morning! Here’s the Monday Morning Blog!

Happy Presidents Day!

Did you touch base with that teen in your life last week? Many of them will not have school today. Maybe do something special with them or help them do something special with their day off. It will let them know you are thinking about them and that they are appreciated by YOU!

February’s Theme – Black History Month

There are many people and events that have shaped the history of our country. Black History Month is a time when we highlight the achievements of Black Americans.

This month, I am centering the theme on my blogs and mentor page on a few of these achievements. Check out my mentor page and see how I am focusing on that theme Selma P. Verde – Mentor Page The Mentoring Memo is a quote from the person we are featuring this week.

Many of the achievements of Blacks in our history showed how they overcame racial inequality and invented new things or became leaders in companies and organizations. Franklin Thomas is no exception. So, on this President’s Day, we will celebrate Franklin Thomas and his accomplishments as the President and CEO of the Ford Foundation and the first Black foundation president in America.

Immigrant Beginnings

According to an article in, Franklin Thomas’ family immigrated from Barbados. After his father passed away when he was eleven, Thomas saw how his black, working-class mother was treated in World War II America. She had gone to school as a machinist to make more money to support her family during a time when women were working in the shops while the men were at war. Watching her out there working hard for her family, she became a role model for Thomas.

“I grew up in a family that just assumed that one, you were smart and capable; two, that you were going to work hard; and three, the combination of these meant anything was possible,” Thomas said in a 1982 interview with The New York Times.

Thomas excelled at basketball in high school. He earned college scholarships and some of his records still stand. Even though he was successful at sports, he turned down all of the sports scholarships to attend Columbia on an academic one. After graduating and serving in the Air Force, he returned to Columbia to attend law school.

With his law degree, he took on a variety of jobs including working in housing law for the government, U.S Attorney’s Office and New York City Police Department as the deputy commissioner. From these positions, he got more involved in the community and became the first president of the newly formed Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corp, a non profit used to channel government and foundation money into Bedford-Stuyvesant, one of the largest Black communities in Brooklyn, New York.

What is the Ford Foundation?

Franklin Thomas – Photo Credit to The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is a trust that was set up by automobile manufacturer Henry Ford. According to Wikipedia, with all of the different positions he held and experience that he had, Thomas was appointed to the Ford Foundation as President in 1979, at a time when it was suffering financial issues and needed a new leader. Thomas was selected from a group of 300 qualified candidates.

In his role as the president, he looked at the current structure and policies of the foundation. Seeing that changes needed to be made, he created and implemented a new agenda to regain managerial and financial control. This led to many changes including firing many employees in 1982.

While he was president, he increased their financial standing, created the community development support program, Local Initiatives Support Corporation and expanded the foundation’s global reach.

Not only did he make the foundation more successful, but by becoming the President of the Ford Foundation, he became the first Black foundation president in America.

How did Franklin Thomas become a part of Black History?

He became a part of Black history by being the first Black foundation president at a time when Black Americans were still breaking into these positions of leadership. He has an inspiring story because was a leader who made things happen. Not only did he make the Ford Foundation more successful, he also helped get support for community development in black communities. He recently passed away in December 2021.

To learn more about Franklin Thomas, here is a link to Wikipedia – Franklin Thomas

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Have a great week!

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