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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American Philanthropy and Post-1956 Hungarian Refugee Aid

August 6, 2021

My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center focused on the records of the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council. Some materials from the Nelson A. Rockefeller papers and the Rockefeller University archives were also consulted. The primary goal of my research was to identify the role of the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations in supporting collaboration across the Iron Curtain in the humanities.Upon arriving at the Archive Center and gaining an initial insight and a better overview of the potentially relevant materials, I complemented my original research agenda with an additional aspect. I realized that among the records of both the Rockefeller and the Ford Foundations, a large number of collections deal with humanitarian actions that benefited Hungarian refugees leaving their country in 1956 and 1957, after Soviet military forces defeated the Hungarian revolution and before the borders were closed and strictly controlled. While it was known that American philanthropic foundations were involved in humanitarian aid, existing scholarship in the field has not reported on the extent of their involvement. The Rockefeller and Ford Foundations gained passing mentions at best, or not at all. Considering the potential benefits for the international research community, I decided to cover these numerous records during my stay. The number of documents on Hungarian refugee aid far exceeded the amount of materials on soft cultural diplomacy in Hungary. Considering that previous researchers have already reported on Ford Foundation's Eastern European Fund, probably, the most important cultural diplomatic effort targeting the region during the early Cold War (that I covered myself to gain firsthand knowledge on the program), I will rather focus in this report on what other researchers did not.

Cold War; Ford Foundation; Refugee Scholars

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

Political Instability, Modernization, and the Institutionalization of Brazilian Political Science in the 1960s

June 21, 2021

As of the late 1960s, Brazilian political science underwent a process of academic modernization. The field was institutionalized as an autonomous academic discipline and it experienced a theoretical-methodological turn towards scientificity, objectivity, and empirically-oriented methods. In terms of thematic agenda, the discipline envisioned an applied orientation, able to engage in non-academic public debate. Institutionally, political science met a wave of professionalization and academic institutionalization in which several research institutes and graduate programs were created with significant financial support from Ford Foundation's philanthropic funding. In this context, one of the most prominent institutions was Iuperj (Instituto Universitário de Pesquisas do Estado do Rio de Janeiro), in Rio de Janeiro. Founded by the Brazilian intellectual Candido Mendes de Almeida, the center received Ford Foundation support from 1967 through 1989. This report intends to use the case of Iuperj to show how Ford Foundation policy on social science development in Latin America was articulated on three different, interconnected levels — at the highest ranks of the Ford Foundation's New York headquarters; regionally, at the Office of Latin American and the Caribbean (OLAC) and its Social Science Program; lastly, at the local level, in the grant agreement between the Ford Foundation and the Iuperj.

Ford Foundation; Political Science

Report on Research Examining the Ford Foundation’s Influence on the Producing Model of US Regional Theaters

June 9, 2021

This report provides draft excerpts from my PhD research on the evolving relationship between US regional theaters and the New York-based cluster of legitimate commercial theaters and producers, collectively known as "Broadway," between 1947 and 2017. After World War II, Broadway had near total control over the professional production and regional distribution of new plays and musicals. In response to this stranglehold, there were calls to decentralize the American theater. The resident (or regional) theater movement that eventually arrived in response to these calls is generally credited to the massive investments, technical assistance, and public advocacy of the Ford Foundation. Between 1959 and 1980, the Foundation awarded approximately $31.5 million in support of strengthening resident professional theater. Material from the Ford Foundation (FF) archives collected at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) contributes to a chapter in my dissertation examining how requirements, constraints, and forms of support provided by the FF shaped the first generation of modern resident theaters, including their relationship with Broadway. To that end, two questions are currently motivating my review and analysis of documents collected in the FF collection: (1) Did financial support, technical assistance, and the imprimatur proffered by the FF strengthen or weaken the agency of resident theaters vis-à-vis Broadway? (2) Did the FF's support encourage resident theaters to adopt structures, policies, practices, goals, and beliefs that ultimately confined them to fulfilling a distributary (franchise) or tryout (farm club) function vis-à-vis Broadway, rather than the tributary (independent feeder) role that regional theaters were once imagined to fulfill?

Ford Foundation; Rockefeller Foundation

“A Most Interesting and Complex Involvement”: Cold War Alignments between the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, the Congress for Cultural Freedom, and the Central Intelligence Agency

May 25, 2021

When temperatures on the cultural Cold War front reached boiling point in the early 1950s, both the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) solicited the cooperation of the private sector for funding activities aimed at refuting Communist claims about the United States and its allies—activities that would have suffered from inefficiency had they been openly funded by Washington. This report traces this symbiotic state-private relationship in the case of the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), a worldwide CIA-funded forum for intellectuals of centrist persuasion, established at a time when the US Congress was reluctant to appropriate funding for counterpropaganda. From the very onset, the CIA tried to transfer "Operation Congress" to the philanthropic sector, the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, in particular. Records of these foundations reveal an internal balancing of risks against responsibilities, which tipped in favor of the CCF by the presence of staunch advocates such as John McCloy and Shepard Stone. By the time the Ford Foundation finally decided to commit itself substantially to the CCF, fate struck and exposed its link with its secret patron. A sense of obligation, if not guilt, on the part of Ford Foundation administrators, often combined with a sincere conviction of its continued utility in the concerted endeavor of tearing down the Iron Curtain, ensured the existence of the CCF—renamed into the International Association for Cultural Freedom (IACF)—for another decade. The incapacity of the IACF to adapt itself to the political climate of the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, ultimately led to its demise.

Cold War; Ford Foundation; Francis X. Sutton Papers; John D. Rockefeller 3rd Papers; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation

Researching Human Rights at the Rockefeller Archive Center

April 23, 2021

This report details my January 2014 visit to the Rockefeller Archive Center.  My research agenda was to investigate how and why the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund supported nongovernmental organizations focused on international violations of human rights.  During my time at the Center, I explored two principal topics.  First, I searched records related to the Rockefeller Brothers Fund's support for the International League for Human Rights, Amnesty International USA, Freedom House, and the American Civil Liberties Union, four nongovernmental organizations whose human rights activism was central to my research.  Second, my visit enabled me to explore the broader role played by the Ford Foundation in supporting human rights organizations in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ford Foundation; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Rockefeller Family

The Ford Foundation and India’s Planning Commission

April 8, 2021

I consulted the records of the Ford Foundation at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in January 2015 as part of research for my dissertation titled "Planned Democracy: Development, Citizenship, and the Practices of Planning in Independent India, c. 1947—1966." My research at the RAC focused on the Ford Foundation's grants towards certain projects in India. These included ones supporting research on development, the training of economists, and the funding of a computer center at the Planning Commission. These archives offered me new insights into the depth of the Ford Foundation's involvement in postcolonial India's early experiments in economic development. They were especially useful in throwing light on how non-government institutions partnered with the Indian state in its quest to ramp up its research and data capacities.

Economics; Ford Foundation; Social Sciences

Co-operatives and Contraceptives: Family Planning and Theories of Rural Development in Comilla, East Pakistan

March 15, 2021

Why did Pakistan (including both present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh) emerge as a crucial site for global population control programs? Operating at multiple scales of analysis, my project explores the motivations for advocating family planning programs by different groups in Pakistan from the early 1950s to 1971 - these included social scientists, Islamic modernists, women social workers, and politicians and bureaucrats. It also examines the interactions between these local groups and global actors on questions of population control. I look at the implementation of both research and action-oriented family planning projects, and explore their attempts to organize and reconfigure social and economic relations. The friction arising from the planning and implementation of these projects provides fruitful ground for examining debates over foreign aid, modernization, the role of Islam, and state-formation in a decolonizing society. Family planning schemes operated at different scales; some were pilot projects at the village level, while others were provincial or national in scope. However, they were all transnational enterprises, and sites of interaction between local and global ideas, actors, and institutions. This research report focuses on the Pakistan Academy for Rural Development at Comilla as a site for examining the relationship between family planning and rural development.

Ford Foundation; Population Council; Population and Reproductive Sciences

The Ford Foundation, NGOs, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

February 24, 2021

While not well known among the general public, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea remains one of the most important global environmental agreements ever reached. Under the auspices of the United Nations, delegates from over 150 nations worked for almost a decade to develop a comprehensive legal regime to govern the oceans. Yet these delegates did not discuss and debate alone. They were joined by a transnational network of activists, lawyers, scientists, and other professionals concerned with humanity's changing relationship with the oceans. Between the late 1960s and early 1980s, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) brought these different groups together in conferences, workshops, and other informal gatherings to advance scholarship, shape policy, and educate the public. But without the direct sponsorship of participating states, NGOs had to look elsewhere for the resources necessary to realize their mission. Philanthropic organizations, such as the Ford Foundation, often supplied a crucial source of funding. With the financial backing of wealthy foundations, smaller NGOs could explore ideas, establish relationships, and highlight voices left out of the official negotiations.

Ford Foundation; Global

Primates and Population in Postcolonial India

January 5, 2021

In May 1963, Dr. Sheldon Segal convened a meeting of reproductive biologists at the Population Council's offices in New York City. He had called them there to consider "the possibility of concentrating efforts to increase fertility control research by means of establishing a large primate center in India." The proposal was an outgrowth of Segal's consultancy work for the Ford Foundation in New Delhi, and he was keen to pursue it. Segal regarded India – "a country with an abundant monkey supply" – as an ideal place to establish a cost-effective primate center for contraceptive research.   

Biology and Medical Research; Ford Foundation; Population Council; Population and Reproductive Sciences

The Ford Foundation in Greece, 1958-1982

December 9, 2020

I am working on a historical examination of the Ford Foundation's activities in Greece. I initially came across the Ford Foundation, one of the most significant US philanthropic institutions, along with the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation, during my Ph.D. research on the political publishing field in Greece during the "long 1960s." The Ford Foundation (FF) grants are very much present both in oral testimonies, as well as in the Greek press from the late 1960s until the early 1970s. However, until now, the issue has been assessed only at a political level or a mere journalistic one.I mainly focus on the first period of the Ford Foundation activities in Greece, from 1958 to 1968, and on the second period from 1968 to 1982 during the tenure of Kaiti Myrivilli, the on-site director of operations and a key person for the development of Ford Foundation's program. During the former period, funding was directed primarily to (state) institutions. The latter period of the FF's operations in Greece was rather controversial, as it initiated a time of left-wing grantees during a military dictatorship perceived to having been US-led, causing heated debate and polemics. My project goal is to reconstruct the history of the Ford Foundation activity in Greece within the context of the cultural Cold War and at the same time keep conspiracy theories and Manichaeism away from my analysis.

Ford 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

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