The Soul of Philanthropy - Columbia


The inspiration for this groundbreaking exhibit comes from the award-winning book, Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African-American Philanthropists, written by Valaida Fullwood with photographer Charles Thomas. The 400-page hardcover book celebrates the giving spirit through photography and stories that honor a centuries-old cultural custom.



Valaida Fullwood

Founding Member, New Generation of African American Philanthropists, Author, Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists, Social Innovator, Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited Campaign Architect, Black Philanthropy Month Blogger,

Described an “idea whisperer,” Valaida brings unbridled imagination and a gift for harnessing wild ideas to her work as a writer, public speaker and consultant on an array of projects and events. Valaida is the award-winning author of Giving Back, a 400-page hardcover book profiling stories of philanthropy among African Americans that was developed with photographer Charles Thomas and Charlotte giving circle New Generation of African American Philanthropists. Giving Back was named one of the 10 Best Black Books of 2011 and received the prestigious 2012 McAdam Book Award, which recognizes “the most inspirational and useful new book for the nonprofit sector.”

Valaida is a recognized thought leader on African American philanthropy and community-led philanthropy and is frequently invited by a variety of groups to write, talk and consult on the topic. She is featured in a 2013 TEDx Talk on philanthropy and was named 2014 Lake Distinguished
Visitor at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. In 2015, the innovative museum exhibit “The Soul of Philanthropy”—a reimagining of the book Giving Back—emerged as the newest dimension of her work. Valaida’s writing and projects are featured on, and she enjoys social mediaconnections on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter at @ValaidaF.



Charles Thomas

Member, New Generation of African American Philanthropists Photographer, Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists Social Innovator, Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited Charlotte Program Director, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Charles is an artist-photographer, educator and social entrepreneur. Formerly education director at The Light  Factory Contemporary Museum of  Photography and Film, Charles  is  currently the Charlotte program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. 

Charles is the owner of Sankofa Photography and the photographer of Giving Back.  Collaborators on the book, Charles and Valaida Fullwood are featured in a TEDx Talk on philanthropy and have developed “The Soul of Philanthropy” exhibition. Charles currently serves on the boards of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and East Mecklenburg High School Foundation and is a member of New Generation of African
American Philanthropists. Charles is married to Micaila Milburn and is the proud father of three beautiful boys.

Columbia, SC Exhibition Designer


Tracy Murrell

Tracy Murrell is an Atlanta-based curator and visual artist.  Curator for Hammonds House Museum from 2012 to 2017, Tracy is now a full-time studio artist and independent curator.  She served as President of African Americans for the Arts (AAFTA) for two years and currently serves on the board as the treasurer. She is a member of Visual Arts Network, the Association of Art Museum Curators, and serves as an active Advisory Board member with Chop Art, Inc. 

Tracy is a founding member of ATLArtGirls, a collective of female creatives sharing what inspires their world through events and online platforms.

TSOP exhibition in CharlotteNC.jpg


The Soul of Philanthropy was developed under the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Museum Grants for African American History and Culture. The James B. Duke Memorial Library at Johnson C. Smith University, in partnership with author Valaida Fullwood, photographer Charles W. Thomas Jr. and New Generation of African American Philanthropists, managed the exhibition under its inaugural, IMLS grant-funded national tour, 2015-2016.




Cherise Arrendale, Central Carolina Community Foundation
Sherrie Belton, Columbia Museum of Art
Maggie Bostick, Women Engaged
Jessica Boyd, The Gild Agency
Tanya Smith Brice, Benedict College
Tracie Broom, Flock and Rally
Bobby Donaldson, University of South Carolina
Valaida Fullwood, Author
Anita Garrett, Women Engaged
Jannie Harriott, SC African American Heritage Commission
Dawn House, SC Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism
Tamara King, Richland Library
Heather Sherwin, Central Carolina Community Foundation
Ashley Warthen, Richland Library
Charles Weathers, The Weathers Group