Laverne McCartney Knighton
Laverne McCartney Knighton, a native Texan, is Area Director for UNCF, the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization offering scholarships and opportunities to over a half million Black students in our country. She oversees fundraising, scholarship program development, and external relations to benefit UNCF’s 37-member private HBCUs and area students in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and North/South Dakota. Prior to UNCF, Laverne was Program Director for The BrandLab where she provided exposure, access and opportunity to diverse high school students seeking careers in marketing and advertising.
Laverne has a BS degree in Consumer Science & Merchandising from University of Houston. She was a fashion buyer with Dayton’s/Marshall Fields in Minneapolis, MN. Laverne also spent 13 years with Target Corporation in Community Relations/Corporate Social Responsibility where she helped advance Target's reputation as a leader in education, arts, and diversity.
Laverne served as Public Information and Education Manager for Tubman Family Alliance where she built community partnerships and created public awareness focused on domestic violence issues.
Laverne stepped into the political arena in 2020. In answering the call for change in response to the murder of George Floyd, Laverne was one of forty African-American women recruited by Black Women Rising who stepped up to say, “no more!” Laverne ran for MN State Senator District 65 and garnered 36% of the vote in the Primary as a first-time candidate against a thirty-year incumbent. Her platform addressed the need for changes in systemic racism, public safety reform and overdue diversity to the MN State Senate. Laverne was featured on MSNBC Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Elle Magazine, BBC News, Pioneer Press, MPR News with Angela Davis, Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, Insight News.
Laverne serves as an External Advisor to Governor Tim Walz’s Community Resiliency and Recovery work group to address racial inequalities and disparities due to COVID-19 and was appointed in 2017 to the Young Women’s Initiative Council working to improve equity for young women living with the greatest disparities in Minnesota. In 2019 Laverne was recognized as a Woman of Excellence at the Celebrating the Sistas Award Ceremony in recognition of her outstanding leadership, contributions, and commitment to the Twin Cities community. She was also honored as a Path Finder and featured in the 2021 Minnesota African American Heritage Calendar.
Laverne is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., The Links, Inc., and Girl Friends, Inc. She is an Alumni of Leadership Saint Paul and has served as Advisory Board Member for Cedar Riverside People’s Center, YWCA of St. Paul, and Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center. She is a former Board Member of APEX Charter School and has also served as an active member of Chicago African-Americans in Philanthropy, Minnesota Blacks in Philanthropy and Donors Forum. She has served as Graduation Coach for Achieve Minneapolis, Reading Tutor for Reading Corps and mentor for Girls Taking Action and Project Diva.
Laverne resides in St. Paul with her husband, Russell Knighton. They have three children.