The University of Memphis’ Hooks Institute has created two new endowment funds, each with $50,000, in memory of Benjamin and Francis Hooks. 

According to the press release provided by the University of Memphis, the endowments were created to promote the role of arts and culture in the work of social change and to provide resources to elevate community involvement in social change.

These endowments are being created to help to ensure  that the gifts made by Hooks and his wife will continue to last and help promote change.

“The Hooks endowments are the legacies of two people who worked tirelessly uplifting others” said Patricia Grey, daughter of Benjamin and Francis Hooks.

The Hooks Institute was created in 1996 by Benjamin L. Hooks along with the University of Memphis. The institute was created with the goal of teaching, promoting, and studying civil rights and social change. The institute strives to reach these goals through research, education, and intervention programs along with hosting events programs within the community. These include symposiums, lectures and scholarships, such as Uplift Memphis, Uplift the Nation and the Hook Institute’s National Book Award

In 2009, Hooks announced that he and his wife would be leaving financial gifts in their estates to the Hooks Institute. Daphene McFerren, the executive director of the Institute, said Hooks was pleased to give this donation.

“He remarked that he and Mrs. Hooks were especially grateful to estate gifts to institutions because historical discrimination against African Americans had far too often prevented wealth accumulation among African Americans to allow institutional gifts,” McFerren said.

The Hooks Institute also created the Hooks African American Male Initiative (HAAMI), which is focused on improving the graduation rates of African American males attending the University of Memphis. The HAAMI aims to “enrich each students’ academic and personal development, and career readiness.”

Benjamin and Francis Hooks were both Memphis natives and greatly involved in social change throughout their lives. Benjamin Hooks, a World War II veteran, LeMoyne College graduate and Baptist minister, fought against prejudice and advocated for civil rights throughout his life. 

He became the first African American to be a criminal court judge in Tennessee and first African American to be appointed to the Federal Communications Commission. Hooks was also elected as executive director of the NAACP in 1972. In 2007 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Francis Hooks also led a very influential life. She fought for equality in race and gender in Memphis. After graduating from Fisk University, she was among the first African American women to teach at Carver High School. Hooks was also very involved in the civil rights movement. She took part in the march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. After her husband became executive director at the NAACP, she took a place in the organization to organize and lead Women in the NAACP.

Donations to help support the Hooks Institute can be made by going to the institute’s page on the University of Memphis website.


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