Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey has launched an initiative to raise $1 million to fund Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The top-selling Black-owned spirits brand launched the HBCU Old Fashioned Challenge on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the brand noted in a statement.
The project will be extended through Black History Month and Women’s History Month in February and March respectively. In a press statement, the spirits brand said the money realized from the program will be distributed amongst the country’s top 58 ranked HBCUs to use as they see fit.
Through the HBCU Old Fashioned Challenge, the statement noted, Uncle Nearest will also create awareness of the contributions these institutions make to workforce diversity and the role they play in economic mobility.
Available data shows that HBCUs make up less than 3% of college institutions. They also enroll 10% of all African-American students and produce almost 20% of all African-American graduates. “These graduates have gone on to hold high-income jobs, making up 40% of Black judges, 50% of Black doctors and lawyers, and 40% of Black engineers,” according to the statement.
Despite this progress, HBCUs are underfunded and this could lead to lower graduation rates due to student debt and lack of resources.
“Many have opinions about Deion Sanders’ decision to move from Jackson State, an HBCU, to Colorado. I will tell you what I know to be true: Coach Prime put a much-needed spotlight on how HBCU programs can compete if they are properly funded,” said Fawn Weaver, founder and CEO of Uncle Nearest.
“He showed us what one person with influence, shining a light on HBCUs, can do to help. Enrollment in HBCUs grew tremendously after Beyonce’s 2019 film, Homecoming. I am certainly no Beyonce, but I have a spotlight on me. And it’s my greatest honour to be able to shift that spotlight where it should be – on our incredible Historically Black Colleges and Universities. When I reached out to share this program, so many of them asked me, ‘What can we do to help?’ I told each of them that I didn’t want them to do anything. It’s our turn to be torchbearers and give back, asking nothing in return.”
The launch date of the Uncle Nearest Old Fashioned Challenge on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was chosen to highlight the legacy of HBCUs in the life of one of America’s greatest Black leaders, the statement said. Like his dad, King enrolled at Morehouse College at 15 and went on to become an iconic civil rights leader.
About Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey was founded by Weaver to honor the memory of Nearest Green, an enslaved African American who helped Jack Daniel to start his distillery. The 323-acre distillery became the first in U.S. history to honor an African-American whiskey maker, and one of the few distilleries in the country owned and operated by a Black, female lead.
The whiskey brand debuted in 2017. It recently announced that its sales exceeded $100 million through October 2022, making it one of the most successful Black-owned distilleries in the world. The whiskey brand said it is expected to more than double that total by the end of 2023.
In 2021, the brand became the best-selling African-American-owned and founded spirits brand in the U.S. after selling nearly 1.5 million bottles of its sought-after super-premium whiskey. The company’s whiskey portfolio of seven offerings is available at its distillery in Shelbyville, Tennessee and in all 50 states, territories, and districts nationwide.