New investment extends Franklin Thomas Fellowships to 2040

The Franklin Thomas Fellowship, a program that honors the former Ford Foundation president by providing scholarships to promising constitutional and human rights lawyers in South Africa, will continue through 2040, thanks to a new grant from the Ford Foundation.

The new funds, which will replenish the program’s endowment, were announced in Johannesburg as the foundation marked the 20th anniversary of its office there.

Since 1998, the fellowship has supported candidates who are employed as researchers or clerks of South Africa’s Constitutional Court, providing them with an opportunity to participate in international human rights post-graduate study in the United States. A single fellowship is awarded annually to candidates who demonstrate a commitment to human rights and the intention to practice in that field in South Africa. Since 1998, the program has provided scholarships to 11 promising lawyers, most from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The grant was announced at South Africa’s Constitutional Court, where Franklin Thomas, current Ford Foundation leadership, judicial leaders and others had gathered to celebrate the country’s progress and imagine the future.

“It is my great honor to announce the extension of the Franklin Thomas Fellows, so that even more of us can walk the journey to justice in Frank’s footsteps,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation.

“Frank was an integral partner in the fight against apartheid,” added Walker. “One of his enduring legacies is the visionaries he identified, mentored and supported. This program will help extend that legacy far into the future.”

A recent survey of past fellows showed that they have applied their experience and skills in the research and judicial processes associated with human rights and constitutional law and across a range of social justice issues. The new investment of $400,000 will allow the program to support a new generation of constitutional and human rights lawyers to continue this work in the years ahead.

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The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.