Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports are created by recipients of research travel stipends and by many others who have conducted research at the RAC. The reports demonstrate the breadth of the RAC's archival holdings, particularly in the study of philanthropy and its effects. Read more about the history of philanthropy at resource.rockarch.org. Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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Laurance S. Rockefeller and the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission: Race, Recreation, and the National Parks

February 25, 2022

This project focuses on the links between the conservation movement and civil rights through an examination of the reach and impact of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission (ORRRC) and its chairman, Laurance S. Rockefeller (LSR).  The Commission's landmark report in 1962 identified large racial disparities in access to public lands and recreation across the USA, which prompted the National Park Service (NPS) to establish new National Recreation Areas and Historical Parks in urban areas in the 1960s and 1970s.  The project examines the history of the ORRRC, contextualizes the Commission's work within the longer history of the civil rights movement's efforts to desegregate state and national parks, and NPS efforts to increase recreational opportunities in urban areas.  Based on research in the records of the ORRRC at the Rockefeller Archive Center and in the National Archives, the project also discusses the central role of LSR in the Commission's history, as well as his views on civil rights and public lands.The entire study, commissioned by Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historical Park, includes five chapters.  This report is drawn from chapter 3, which examines the ORRRC's uneven efforts between 1958-62 to identify and recommend remedies for racial disparities in outdoor recreational opportunities in urban areas.  The complete chapter examines ORRRC studies of New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, and Los Angeles, as well as Atlanta, the focus of this report.  

African American Studies; Laurance S. Rockefeller Papers; Leisure and Tourism; Rockefeller Family

“The Gentleman We’re All Talking About”: William Beveridge and the Idea of Postwar Social Planning in the United States during World War II

November 23, 2021

This report traces a 1943 trip to the United States by British economist William Beveridge, whose 1943 "Beveridge Plan" laid the foundation for the postwar British welfare state. Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the trip coincided with a period of intense debate in the United States over the future of the New Deal state and the role of social security and social welfarism in postwar planning. Drawing on previously untapped records at the Rockefeller Archive Center, I use Beveridge's trip, and the reception that he received in the United States, to explore transnational ideas about social security and social and economic rights and how they were contested and debated in the United States. Beveridge's trip to the United States sheds light on how domestic ideas about postwar planning shifted during the war against the backdrop of race relations, the wartime defense economy, and the evolving relationship between business, labor, and the state.

African American Studies; Rockefeller Foundation; World War II

Black Land, Black Power, and Liberal Philanthropy

November 9, 2021

The late 1960s saw a revival of the "land question" in African American public life. This was in part a product of the political and intellectual upheavals of the late 1960s, as exponents of the Black Power movement cited the desirability of economic empowerment, institution building, and consciousness-raising as preconditions of nationhood. Liberal philanthropies, such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Ford Foundation, and others, were central funders of a variety of land-based activism in the rural South, reshaping the process and limits of African American-led rural development initiatives in the region.

African American Studies; Agrarian and Rural; Ford Foundation; Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Jackson Davis’s Imprint on the General Education Board Archive

November 1, 2021

A central figure in the General Education Board's effort to improve the lot of southern African Americans was Jackson Davis (1882-1947), a white Virginian who emerged from post-Reconstruction southern society to intervene in the educational disparity that disadvantaged Black school children. Informed by progressive graduate training from Columbia Teachers College, Davis worked in Virginia in the early decades of the twentieth century to secure opportunities for Black teachers and pupils within the emerging separate-but-unequal system of education in the South. That is not to say that Davis, who was directly affiliated with the GEB from 1915 until his death, supported the racial integration of schools, only that he recognized the detriment inherent in under-resourced education for African American children, whose facilities were usually poor and teachers often inadequately trained. As we position Davis's significant contribution within the GEB's program of African American outreach and funding, we must acknowledge him as a white man of a specific time and place but with distinct professional, and perhaps personal, experiences that shaped his views on race and most likely influenced the perspectives of his GEB colleagues. 

African American Studies; General Education Board; Journalism

Paul Ylvisaker, “Indigenous Leadership,” and the Origins of Community Action

July 21, 2021

This report examines how Paul Ylvisaker developed his view that the development of "indigenous leadership" represented the key to solving the urban problems of the 1960s. It also looks at how that view shaped the development of the community action programs at the Ford Foundation and in the Johnson administration. I argue that his conception of what "indigenous leadership" meant and the role it should play in US urban politics was formed through a brief stint working on a Ford Foundation project in Calcutta. This conception then affected his management of early conflicts in the Ford Foundation's Gray Areas program, where community action originated. Ultimately, I argue, this story illuminates one way in which debates about community action, antipoverty policy, and urban politics in the early to mid-1960s were conditioned by Americans' competing visions of decolonization and the postcolonial world.

African American Studies; Ford Foundation

Neither Right nor Left: Grassroots Black Conservatism in Post-World War II America

August 25, 2020

Over the past two decades, the growth of scholarship on the history of modern conservatism and the rise of the New Right has moved this ideology from the margins of American society to mainstream political thought. Much of this work has foregrounded the lives, organizations, and political activity of white conservatives in the U.S. But scholars have begun to pay more serious attention to African Americans and their leadership in the Republican Party during the postwar era. Notwithstanding the significance of this emerging literature, it places a strong national and state focus on the instrumental role of black Republicans who waged an uphill battle to secure the GOP's commitment to civil rights and racial equality. My project adopts a more bottom-up approach to understanding the development of modern black conservatism and its impact on the African American struggle for racial equality, focusing on its evolution in local communities from 1950 to 1985. I contend that even though the important role of black Republicans and conservatives at the national level during this period has begun to receive more attention, the lesser well-known individuals and groups, especially black women, who helped to shape conservative ideas about crime, education, and economic advancement, require further study. In addition, there is a dearth of local studies that examine how ordinary men and women critically influenced conservative ideas about racial uprisings, Black Power, busing, welfare, police brutality, the War on Poverty, gay rights and feminism. I argue that while some African Americans ostensibly appropriated conservative ideas about family, morality, and individualism, others refashioned these ideas to address their racialized experiences.

African American Studies; Ford Foundation; Nelson A. Rockefeller Gubernatorial Records; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family

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