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 Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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The Ford Foundation’s 1970s Program for School Finance Reform: Origins and Overview

October 13, 2022

As a foundation, Ford tried different approaches to ameliorate social problems.  For example, the Ford Foundation both funded community control of schools to make local fundraising easier and lawsuits to equalize state resources during the late 1960s.  Yet, the ideas behind the Ford Foundation's public education grantmaking conflicted: Should democracy be based on voting or participation? Should schools be run by the community or by experts? Should legislatures volunteer or courts require school finance reform?  From the start of its influential school finance grantmaking in 1969, Ford funded policy ideas rather than political action, looking to the courts for top-down orders to end the discriminatory use of property taxes to fund schools.  The foundation pursued two strategies: supporting groups reforming discriminatory school finance and building "intellectual strength."

Education; Ford Foundation; Taconic Foundation

The Birth and Death of Near East Foundation’s Community Development

October 18, 2021

My research looks at the Near East Foundation (NEF) from 1930 to 1979, exploring the rural education programs carried out in the Near East. Its predecessor, the Near East Relief (NER), provided assistance in former Ottoman territories after WWI. The epigraph above serves as an illustration of US sentiment towards the organization's work as its days of relief were almost phased out (like NER) and programs shifted to scientific philanthropy, addressing the underlying rural problems of poverty, pestilence, and ignorance. The story of the NEF is one of survival and relevance where it began by drawing on ideas of domestic philanthropy such as the Jeanes Fund, the General Education Board, and the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission for the Eradication of Hookworm Disease. These philanthropies' collective goals of education, health, and sanitation expansion into the US South formed the basic idea of reform. Additionally, the NEF drew on the Phelps-Stokes Fund's early expertise in transferring ideas of educating African Americans in the US South to expanding education in "primitive" situations in Africa. Collectively, these US organizations became a model for how NEF reimagined "primitive" Near East villages from Greece to Persia and eventually throughout the eastern hemisphere.

Academic Research and Education; Agrarian and Rural; Cold War; Education; Interwar Years; Near East Foundation

The Midwest Program on Airborne Television Instruction and the Ford Foundation

November 6, 2020

The Midwest Program on Airborne Television Instruction (MPATI) was a major investment by the Ford Foundation and other philanthropies in the 1950s and 1960s.  Project administrators used broadcast antennae on airplanes to provide educational programs to schools across a six-state region, with the goal of closing the gap between wealthy, higher-performing schools in the region, and poorer school systems in cities and rural areas.  Furthermore, MPATI was envisioned as a potential model for other disadvantaged regions, such as Appalachia, as well as for other nations.  This report draws primarily from correspondence between Ford Foundation officials and MPATI administrators.

Education; Ford Foundation; Technology; Television

The Establishment of the Central Medical School, Fiji

September 30, 2020

The purpose of this report is to introduce Rockefeller Foundation involvement in the early histories of the Central Medical School in Fiji. The Central Medical School was established to deal with the dramatic fall in the population of native Fijians. The fear of so-called "race extinction" motivated the British colonial government to pay greater attention to native healthcare by training select Pacific Islanders in basic medicine. The Central Medical School was run by the colonial government of Fiji, staffed by British-educated tutors, attended by students from across Oceania, assisted by the Rockefeller Foundation, and jointly operated by participating colonial administrations: Britain, Australia, New Zealand, France, and the United States. This collaboration between imperial administrations and the Rockefeller Foundation shows the importance of indigenous healthcare in the Pacific islands during the early decades of the 20th century.

Education; Medicine and Healthcare; Rockefeller Foundation

University Development of American Foundations in British Africa

September 10, 2020

This paper discusses Rockefeller and Ford Foundations' participation in the development of new universities in former British Africa in the post-war era. By utilising sources from the Rockefeller Archive Center, it suggests that while American foundations' engagement with African universities has been merely described as "generous" in the context of British imperial histories, the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations had also projected their own philanthropical and diplomatic agendas for African universities. This report focuses specifically on initiatives of the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and their perspectives on British-style development of African universities in Ghana and Nigeria. I argue that vigorous engagements of American foundations had an energising effect on the growth of African universities. Through analysis of the ways in which American foundations participated in and dominated the development of African universities, this report shows a more balanced picture of both Anglo-American cooperation and competition for new universities from the 1950s to 1970s. This research comes out of my doctoral research on British strategies for new universities at the end of the British Empire, focusing on the activities of the InterUniversity Council for Higher Education in the Colonies (later renamed the InterUniversity Council for Higher Education Overseas).

Academic Research and Education; Education; Ford Foundation; Rockefeller Foundation

African Students in the United States: Circulations, Politics and Transfers in the Global 60s

May 19, 2020

When more than thirty African countries gained independence in the early 1960s, most of them faced a shortage of qualified manpower to implement their new national projects. The colonial powers had often excluded the vast majority of Africans from higher education, allowing them only to obtain technical qualifications and rarely the skills to become managers. Higher education for Africans was therefore one of the most important issues for the continent's leaders in the aftermath of independence. This goal was also important in the United States: philanthropic foundations, academics, civil rights activists, and politicians, each for different reasons, wanted to participate in the education of the new African elites. The convergence of the interests of these African and American actors led to the creation of two scholarship programs, the African Scholarship Program of American Universities (ASPAU) in 1961 and the African Graduate Fellowship Program (AFGRAD) in 1963. These two programs, which continued until the 1990s, together enabled more than 4,000 young people from 45 African countries to study in the United States.

Academic Research and Education; Education; Ford Foundation; Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Psychologizing School Problems: The Science of Personality Adjustment in Interwar U.S.

April 28, 2020

This research report is part of my dissertation project, "Creating the Well-Adjusted Citizen: The Human Sciences and Public Schools in the United States, WWI - 1950," which examines the ideas of psychological adjustment and shifting meanings of the "well-adjusted citizen" in the human sciences and in public schools. The goal of the dissertation is to explore the implications of adjustment thinking upon the scrutiny of emotional fitness among its citizenry in the United States. This report focuses specifically on how human scientists and educators approached the interpretation or measurement of personality in the interwar years. I argue that within scientific constructions of personality, there existed two tendencies: one sought to quantify and standardize personality into separable traits or measurable quotient; the other treated personality as a dynamic and holistic process in the context of individuals' interactions with culture. Both tendencies bore epistemological and political implications in the history of psychology and schooling. Ultimately, the ways in which experts and educators conceptualized personality shaped ideas of human differences and functioned to reinforce hierarchical understandings of human nature.

Children and Youth; Commonwealth Fund; Education; General Education Board; Psychology; Social Sciences

Separate and Unequal: Giftedness in the United States 1900 – 2000

March 5, 2020

This project studies how parents, educators, and experts mobilized ideas about race and intelligence in the postwar era to separate students on the basis of "ability," re-inscribing racial segregation in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. Using previously unexplored archives, I argue that despite the breadth of the definition of giftedness—which emphasized exceptional ability in a variety of subjects including music, athletics, and leadership—giftedness ultimately came to be defined by differences in degrees of academic ability rather than kinds of ability. Experts chose to measure giftedness through an IQ exam. Giftedness appealed to a wide variety of actors because of the flexibility of the term; it could be used to promote the expansion of educational opportunities to disadvantaged groups including the working class, women, and minorities. But at the same time, giftedness could also be used to maintain the status quo by legitimizing the existing social order as natural and fair, based on the results of unbiased tests. The Cold War initially enabled the implementation of policies to group gifted students in separate classrooms and schools amidst concerns about whether "segregation" of ability was undemocratic. Instead, experts found that segregation was indeed fair and democratic because it promoted equality of opportunity as opposed to equality. Experts and educators argued this practice was more likely to promote academic achievement for gifted students over other alternatives. Thus, I make an interdisciplinary intervention in the literature on academic tracking in the social sciences and education policy by exploring how and why this practice became widespread.


Ford Foundation Support for Bilingual Education in the Civil Rights Era

February 7, 2020

This report is part of a book project that examines the ways that the institutionalization of bilingual education in the post-Civil Rights era served to maintain racial hierarchies. The primary focus of the report examines the role of the Ford Foundation in funding this institutionalization of bilingual education. After providing a general overview of the foundation's support for bilingual education internationally and domestically, it examines the Ford Foundation's support for bilingual education within its broader efforts to promote the creation of and institutionalization of the Southwest Council of La Raza (SWCLR). This report illustrates the ways that the Ford Foundation was able to effectively utilize funding as leverage for pressuring the SWCLR to transition away from supporting politically contentious community organizing work toward a professional advocacy organization focused on lobbying elite political actors. This, in turn, also pressured more radical elements of the Mexican American community to moderate their stances through active participation in electoral politics. As a result, bilingual education gradually shifted from being an issue connected to grassroots political struggles toward professionalized advocacy reliant on philanthropic and federal funding. As this funding began to dry up with the ascendency of neoliberalism, Mexican American community leaders found themselves ill-equipped to counter the dismantling of bilingual education.

Education; Ford Foundation; Latino Studies

No Dead Languages, Only Dormant Minds: U.S.- Spanish Educational Exchanges through the Ford Foundation

November 11, 2019

My dissertation examines the role of smart power in U.S.-Spain relations during the Spanish transition to democracy. The archives of the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) held several collections that enriched my analysis of the development of soft power by the United States in Spain. At the archives, I found records on the movement of Pablo Picasso's Guernica from the Museum of Modern Art to the Prado in Madrid, Nelson Rockefeller's impact on the Spanish transition, how the Ford Foundation and Peter Fraenkel helped administer Spanish educational reforms and exchanges of the 1970s, and how human rights played a vital role in the Spanish transition.

Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Papers; Education; Ford Foundation; International Relations; Nelson A. Rockefeller Vice Presidential Records; Rockefeller Family

Radical Architects: Philanthropy and the Construction of Colombian Modernity

August 13, 2019

Historians have often overlooked a central component of the story of the Green Revolution: the construction of laboratories, research stations, universities, and other facilities that made crop research possible. My recent research at the Rockefeller Archive Center started with one pivotal research center—the CIAT (Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical) in southwestern Colombia—to try and understand it as an architectural project. When CIAT was finished in the early 1970s, it had already benefitted from years of Rockefeller Foundation (RF) and Ford Foundation (FF) support to that particular project, as well as decades of philanthropic funding at local universities in the nearby cites of Palmira and Cali. The Universidad del Valle (Uni Valle) in Cali had been a particular focus of U.S. philanthropic funding for university development. Among other disciplines, foundations promoted architecture there as a means for international development. From crop research labs to public health centers, Uni Valle architects were supposed to foment modernization by building the facilities that would make it possible. But architecture was more than a facilitator of development; it also became a central site of contestation. At CIAT, officials debated the proper aesthetic and spatial organization that modernizing facilities should take. At the Universidad del Valle, the very architecture students and faculty meant to serve as the champions of a particular kind of modernity, in fact, confounded an easy United States-led development project. Some faculty were radical leftists, and together with students, they led a movement to gain greater control over the university administration from both local and international administrators.

Academic Research and Education; Architecture; Education; Ford Foundation; Rockefeller Foundation; Social Justice

Paul Monroe and the Origins of American Comparative Education

January 29, 2019

Paul Monroe was a pioneering leader of international and comparative education. His greatest contribution to comparative education came from his leadership of the International Institute of Teachers College during 1923-1938, where he led and practiced the teaching and research on comparative education with dynamic international outreach and engagement in investigation of educational systems and conditions of many countries. Monroe played a key role in shaping the development of comparative education as an academic field during its formative years. He and his colleagues trained the first generation of comparative educators in North America and elsewhere. Paul Monroe was also significantly involved in the modernization of education in countries of Asia and the Middle East, when the influence of the United States expanded in these regions primarily via the work of private institutions in the first half of the 20th century.

Academic Research and Education; Education; International Education Board

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