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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Poor, White, and Wormy: Hookworm Eradication in the South and the Boundaries of Whiteness and Citizenship

January 1, 2017

In Medical reformers believed hookworm eradication was important because it helped reinforce the boundaries of "proper whiteness." Images of barefoot and emaciated families, living in extreme poverty and filth due to the draining nature of hookworm disease, made it hard to boast of the universal superiority of the white race. Although interventionists agreed that there were many steps in remedying "the poor white problem," eradicating hookworm seemed to be a crucial component to re-making cultural perceptions of the class of people most often afflicted with the disease. Those involved with the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission's anti-hookworm work hoped their involvement would be enough to turn poor whites' "improper whiteness" into "proper whiteness," thereby strengthening the race's associated cultural and political authority.

Training Poor Whites: The General Education Board and Southern Education

January 1, 2017

The early years of the General Education Board are usually studied in reference to its efforts to shape the education of African-Americans. The board took a racist paternalist stance which encouraged the industrial education of blacks, such as through its support and funding for the Tuskegee Institute of Booker T. Washington. And it discouraged or, at least, did not encourage, the higher education of African-American education in areas such as the liberal arts. Yet, in an era where support for the education of African-Americans was politically and physically dangerous, the Rockefeller philanthropies were unusually progressive and, through the GEB, contributed millions of dollars of funding for black schools and colleges. What is often forgotten is that the education of blacks was not a priority of the early years of the GEB. Instead, as W.E.B. Du Bois confirmed, 'it put stress on and gave precedence to the education of whites'. In the early years of Rockefeller educational philanthropy, the Southern and General Boards of Education made sure that the focus was on Poor Whites.

Dengue Fever, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Southeast Asia

January 1, 2015

This research project explores the history of dengue fever in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, exploring how dengue was understood in a number of colonial societies across East and Southeast Asia. The RAC holds few files directly concerned with dengue fever, but as with other archives, much can be gleaned from reading the rich source material on disease, public health, and colonial governance 'against the grain.' The materials at the RAC -- in particular those pertaining to the International Health Division (IHD) -- provide a fresh perspective on dengue, infectious disease, and public health in Asia, and allow for a far more nuanced understanding of the medical environment.

Fertility Differentials Between African American and White Women in the Early Twentieth Century American South

January 1, 2013

This research project builds on a half-century of demographic studies about turn-of-thetwentieth-century U.S. race differences in fertility. As background, mid-twentieth century demographers began to study historical fertility differentials when a newly released U.S. 1940 Census Bureau report allowed comparisons of aggregated fertility rates by age, race, region and other characteristics for decennial census years 1910 and 1940. They were surprised to find, in 2 back-casting fertility rates, that at some point prior to 1910 the fertility of African American women had dropped, much more precipitously than that of white women. This was surprising because the fertility of very early nineteenth century white and black women stood at biological maximums, although white women had the highest birth rates of all women in North America and perhaps in the world. It was assumed that white women of the time, like most preindustrial women, had high rates because they had not yet elected to practice voluntary fertility control. In contrast, nineteenth century African and African American women experienced high fertility rates under a system of slavery, until the early1860s, with vastly different constraints regarding fertility control to that point. Were white women first to control their fertility? If so, why did African American fertility rates fall far more quickly, once declines began?

Historic Hookworm Prevalence Rates and Distribution in the Southeastern United States: Selected Findings of the Rockefeller Sanity Commission for the Eradication of Hookworm

January 1, 2009

Hookworm, while once a major concern for parts of this country was, by and large, eliminated as a public health concern by the 1960s. Hookworm was eradicated in most wealthy, industrialized countries, but eradication occurred at a time when public health record-keeping was still a young and developing concern. As a result, data on the prevalence on hookworm is sparse and incomplete. The Sanitary Commission's findings in the Rockefeller Archive Center represent the best existing record on the historic prevalence of hookworm within the United States.

The General Education Board and the Racial Leadership of Black Education in the South, 1920-1960

January 1, 2001

The history of northern philanthropy and southern black education is a familiar, yet unfinished, story. Historians have documented how private foundations, particularly the General Education Board (GEB), helped develop black education in the South, but those studies invariably conclude around 1930. It is true that GEB appropriations to southern black education peaked in the early 1930s. Nevertheless, the GEB continued to fund select programs in that field until it ceased operations in 1960. I surveyed part of the GEB papers this summer in order to determine the organization's priorities for black education during this later period. I quickly discovered that denied grant requests could reveal as much as the records of fund recipients. Throughout the thirties and forties, as African Americans organized in the South to gain greater control over their own schools, the GEB continued to fund white supervisors as its primary contribution to black elementary and secondary education. To be sure, many of these State Agents for Negro Schools held reputations as the leading white liberals in their communities.

Southern Scholars and Emerging Universities in the South

January 1, 2001

The American university in the first half of the 20th century was a success. Yet, the history of this "national" institution includes little mention of southern scholars or universities in the South. The purpose of my dissertation is to explore and reconstruct the discussions and debates about university structure and mission that took place in the South between 1920 and 1950. Largely my study concentrates on the social science institutes funded first by the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial, and later by the Rockefeller Foundation, at three universities in the South between 1920 and 1950 - namely the University of North Carolina, the University of Virginia, and the University of Texas. My hypothesis is that the individuals and ideas attracted to and supported at these institutions were a fertile source of ideas and influence about what the southern university ought to be.

The Early History of Racially Segregated, Southern Schools of Social Work, Requesting or Receiving Funds from the Rockefeller Philanthropies and the Responses of Social Work Educators to Racial Discrimination

January 1, 2000

The following report is an account of the largely untold early history of racially segregated Southern schools of social work prior to the 1964 Civil Right Act, and the responses of faculty to racial discrimination in their host universities. This report covers five schools of social work which sought to obtain or received their initial and/or sustaining funding from the philanthropies established by the Rockefeller family. Those schools were located in New Orleans, Atlanta, Chapel Hill (North Carolina), St. Louis, and Nashville. These philanthropies, along with the Russell Sage Foundation and the American Red Cross, were the major early funders of social work education programs in the United States from the early 1900s to the 1940s. This account is based on material obtained from the following sources at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC): the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial (LSRM); the General Education Board (GEB); the Rockefeller Foundation (RF); and the Russell Sage Foundation (RS). In addition, supplemental information has been drawn from the Social Welfare History Archives (SWHA) at the University of Minnesota as well as published material on the development of social work as a profession and an institutional history of a Southern university.

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