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In 1954—following more than twenty years of litigation—the United States Supreme Court declared the doctrine of “separate but equal” unconstitutional. Shortly thereafter, previously segregated public colleges and universities across the nation began admitting African-American students eager to pursue their academic dreams.
In order to secure the hard won gains of its watershed legal precedent, LDF created the Herbert Lehman Education Fund (the “Lehman Fund”) and the Legal Internship and Fellowship Program (the “Fellowship Program”) in 1964 to provide financial assistance to those who had been denied access to higher education for generations. Through their scholarship awards, the Lehman Fund and the Fellowship Program guaranteed for many able African-American undergraduate and law students that the battles to end segregation in education would not be undermined by financial need.
Eight years later, as a successor to the Fellowship Program, LDF incorporated the Earl Warren Legal Training Program (the “Warren Program”) to cultivate future generations of attorneys dedicated to civil rights and public interest work. Additionally, the Warren Program sought to provide financial assistance for African-American students pursuing legal careers.
The scholarships awarded by the Lehman Fund and the Warren Program have provided over $19 million in financial support to undergraduates and law students, making it possible for hundreds of highly qualified students to attend the nation’s most competitive colleges, universities and law schools.
Past scholarship recipients have pursued distinguished careers in the law, the arts, the sciences and business; indeed, a full third have earned graduate degrees. Former scholarship and/or fellowship recipients have gone on to become leaders and exemplary public servants—they have served or are now serving as members of Congress, as judges in the nation’s courts, and even as the heads of nationally prominent organizations such as the Children’s Defense Fund, Inc.
Fifty years after the award of the first LDF scholarships, the shared purpose of both the Lehman Fund and the Warren Program remains clear: to provide scholarships that will help students achieve their academic goals, to involve students in advancing the cause of civil rights and to assure that the doors thrown open by Brown v. Board of Education remain open.