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With humility and gratitude, The 1954 Project honors the legacy of our ancestors, the strides we've made, and the progress yet to come.
Why 1954?

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court legally ended segregation in public schools with the historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling.

The case held with it the promise of an educational system where all our nation's students could learn alongside each other, motivated and led by talented educators from all backgrounds, allowing our country to benefit from its greatest gift - its diversity.

Instead, Black teachers and school leaders were fired, their potential to transform the lives of Black and non-Black children eliminated in the years following 1954.

This devastating loss spurred a ripple effect our nation has felt in the generations since, with a serious lack of Black school administrators, nonprofit leaders, and professionals with proximity to the challenges students face and access to the capital to make measurable change.

The 1954 Project exists to help fulfill the promise of Brown v. Board of Education - and to fuel the impact of innovative Black educators.

It all started with
Cleveland Avenue.

Don and Liz Thompson grew up on the near north Chicago street of that name—Liz in the Cabrini Green housing complex and Don just four blocks north.

The Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education Group is a reflection of their life's work, paying homage to their deep Chicago roots and 40+ year partnership.

The CAFE Group supports young people and leaders of color because Liz and Don know firsthand the critical importance of mentorship, guidance, and financial support. The 1954 Project specifically invests in Black leaders because this is the community for which we have lived experience and first-hand expertise.

The 1954 Project (Melinda/Liz)

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[story of Liz + Melinda]

Our Values


We acknowledge the importance of history and the long-standing legacy of diverse Black leaders fighting for educational equity.


We center the perspectives of those working deeply with communities.

Unique Assets

We take an asset-based approach, celebrating unique and often undervalued perspectives.


We believe in the power of
intergenerational learning.

Joy & Love

Our work is grounded in joy and fueled by our love for the Black community.


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