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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Cultivating Moderates: East-West Exchanges and International Influences on Poland’s Transition to Democracy

May 13, 2022

Beginning in the 1950s, American nongovernmental organizations and US government agencies sponsored exchange programs to bring Eastern European scientists, humanists, scholars, and professionals to Western Europe and the United States, in the belief that exposure to the West would pull East Europeans toward democratic capitalism and undermine communist power. Four decades later in 1989, Poles from both government and opposition groups sat together at a round table to negotiate a transformation from one-party communist rule to capitalist democracy. But did these trips and experiences influence how political elites sought to reform their society at the end of the Cold War? Put most broadly, can pathways of influence and shifts in perception within specific epistemic communities be measured, mapped, and visualized to better illustrate and understand exogenous influences on the democratization process in Eastern Europe?This interdisciplinary project combines traditional, archivally-based qualitative techniques used by historians with digital network analysis tools to better understand the complex, overlapping networks of political revolution and international exchange that came together during the Round Table negotiations in Warsaw in 1989.

Cold War; Ford Foundation; International Relations; Rockefeller Foundation

Designing a Pictorial Language: Rudolf Modley’s Search for Philanthropic Support for the Development of a Universal System of Symbols

May 3, 2022

In 1966, acclaimed cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, and graphic designer Rudolf Modley established the nonprofit Glyphs, Inc., to advance the research, classification, and promotion of universal graphic symbols around the world. Creating a visual language and system of symbols, they believed, could transcend language and lead to greater international understanding and harmony. But despite their esteemed records and vast international contacts, Mead and Modley's ambitious and utopian vision was never fully realized, stalled by lack of financing, unclear and unrealistic goals, differences over philosophy and methodology, and competition and criticism from other comparable endeavors. The correspondence, memos, proposals and reports available in the Rockefeller Archive Center holdings -- notably those of the Ford Foundation (and its affiliate, the Fund for the Advancement of Education), the Rockefeller Foundation (specifically those of the Rockefeller-funded General Education Board), and the Russell Sage Foundation -- provide rich insight into the journey and obstacles faced by Rudolf Modley in raising philanthropic support for his ambitious vision in the decades leading up to the formation of Glyphs, Inc. They shed light on the competing effort of renowned industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss to create an international dictionary of symbols, their differing methods and approach, and their lack of familiarity as designers with the nuances of raising philanthropic funds for their ambitious endeavor. Both Modley and Dreyfuss would go on to publish seminal books on graphic and pictorial symbols in the 1970s, but their tireless efforts to garner support from philanthropic foundations were fraught with false starts and disappointments.

Ford Foundation; General Education Board; Humanities; Rockefeller Foundation; Russell Sage Foundation

Red Scare Recovery: The Ford Foundation’s Role in Rescuing China after McCarthyism

March 9, 2022

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, McCarthyism blighted the American intellectual landscape. The search for communists and communist sympathizers destroyed the careers of many scholars whose work touched on sensitive or controversial topics. It was exactly this "multistranded nature of McCarthyism" that made it so vexing for its antagonists and has made it such fertile ground for historians.

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

The Modern Subject and the Problem of Mathematics

January 28, 2022

This research forms part of a larger book project examining how the meanings and values ascribed to mathematics—as a universal, neutral discourse and as an idiom of reason and truth—came into being and about its cultural circulation between the 1920s and 1960s in American colleges and universities. Drawing on publications and sources from institutional archives such as the Rockefeller Archive Center, this project explores the relations and exchanges between mathematicians and scholars across the arts and humanities over what knowing mathematics entailed and what it meant to be modern.

Academic Research and Education; Ford Foundation; International Education Board; Mathematics and Logic; Simon Flexner Papers APS Microfilm

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

Water Marginalised?

October 26, 2021

Water can produce both favourable and unfavourable health outcomes. As this has been well known since the mid-nineteenth century, the following question arises: why did many polities across the world struggle to commit to improving water supplies and sanitation in the twentieth century? My research explores how the marginalisation of water within the fragmentary structures of imperial and international policy making shaped commitment (or lack thereof) to developing water supplies and sanitation facilities in twentieth-century Africa. By exploring how administrators and scientists did or did not conceptualise water as a key public health issue—and how this framing shaped imperial, colonial, national, and international health policy—we can better understand water's marginalisation in twentieth century health discourses. Researching at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), I sought to better understand the role of Rockefeller Foundation, Near East Foundation, and Ford Foundation officials and associates in conceptualising the relationship between water and health, and between water and development, particularly in relation to the Sudan and Uganda. This report will focus primarily on the work of Rockefeller Foundation officials and associate researchers between c. 1925 and 1940. It also draws from papers held by officials and associate researchers, which were written for, or on behalf of, the League of Nations Health Organisation or the British Colonial Office.

Ford Foundation; Interwar Years; Nelson C. Davis Papers; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

Broadcasting Modernization: Ford Foundation’s Shifting Priorities in Colombia during the Cold War, 1962-1972

September 27, 2021

The Ford Foundation was one of the most prominent private partners of President John F. Kennedy's Alliance for Progress (AFP) program, 1961-1973, aiming to modernize Latin American societies and to enhance hemispheric relations during the global Cold War. Colombia was the operation hub of the Ford Foundation, as Bogotá started to host its Latin American headquarters from 1962 until 1972, when the Foundation dissolved the office due to civil unrest in Colombia. In 1968, under McGeorge Bundy's leadership, the Ford Foundation adopted a broad, organizational strategic shift from focusing on managerial elites to alleviating poverty for the popular masses. This report synthesizes some of my findings about the internal debates about the Foundation's strategic reform and Colombia's unique significance for its work in Cold War Latin America. These findings were gathered during my visit to the Rockefeller Archive Center in January 2020 under a generous research stipend from the Archive. This is a working document for a chapter in my dissertation, tentatively titled The Power of Philanthropy: Development, Empire, and Non-State Actors in Cold War Colombia, 1961-1973.

Cold War; Ford Foundation

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

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