The Look in Brief

American Baptist College lands $3 million technology grant for minority communities

By: - September 8, 2023 3:51 pm
Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette and his wife, Kate Bulls Lafayette, leave American Baptist College in Nashville on Nov. 18, 2022. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette and his wife, Kate Bulls Lafayette, leave American Baptist College in Nashville on Nov. 18, 2022. (Photo: John Partipilo)

American Baptist College, the Nashville school responsible for educating a generation of civil rights leaders, has landed a grant of almost $3 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce through its Connecting Minority Communities pilot program. 

The funding, which comes from the department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, is designed to eradicate digital deserts within a 15-mile radius of the North Nashville college.

“Social justice in technology is a matter of access and equity for underserved communities,” said school President Forrest Harris. “The late Congressman John Lewis would be proud that his alma mater remains on the front line of justice by working to close the digital divide.” 

Chief Advancement Officer Phyllis Qualls said the grant is the largest single grant awarded in the school’s history. 

The two-year grant is part of a Biden administration program to ensure minority students and communities near Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Tribal Colleges or Universities (TCU) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSI) have access to digital technology. 

Through the program, American Baptist will serve as a technology hub in North Nashville, serving the Northwest YMCA. 

American Baptist College was established in 1924 as a seminary to provide a theological education and train Black Baptist ministers.

The school gained broader recognition nationally after several graduates assumed prominent roles in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, including Lewis, who founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) while still in college; Rev. Bernard Lafayette, who led the Selma, Ala. voting rights campaign; the Rev. C.T. Vivian, who held leadership roles in SNCC and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Rev. James Bevel, who conceived of 1963’s March on Washington. 

Lane College, a Jackson HBCU, was the only other Tennessee institution to receive a Connecting Minority Communities grant.

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J. Holly McCall
J. Holly McCall

Holly McCall has been a fixture in Tennessee media and politics for decades. She covered city hall for papers in Columbus, Ohio and Joplin, Missouri before returning to Tennessee with the Nashville Business Journal. Holly brings a deep wealth of knowledge about Tennessee’s political processes and players and likes nothing better than getting into the weeds of how political deals are made.