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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Health-Related Prison Conditions in the Progressive and Civil Rights Eras: Lessons from the Rockefeller Archive Center

September 23, 2020

During my 2019 visit to the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), I viewed papers from more than a dozen collections, which provided perspective on how health, incarceration, politics, and policy intermingled in the twentieth century. In this report, I offer an overview of my book project, Minimal Standards of Adequacy: A History of Health Care in Modern U.S. Prisons, and analyze how portions of it will be informed by two sets of documents from the RAC. I focus first on records contained in the Bureau of Social Hygiene records, which shed light on the perspectives of Progressive Era penologists who helped to shape ideals and practices related to prison health in specific institutions, as well as in state and federal correctional systems. Next, I discuss findings from the papers of Winthrop Rockefeller, who served as governor of Arkansas from 1966 to 1970, when federal courts deemed conditions within the state's prison system unconstitutional. While I continue to undertake research for the book, this report serves as a snapshot of my current reading of select sources from two different moments in the history of US prisons. It suggests the extent to which, throughout the twentieth century, carceral institutions posed tremendous health threats to the increasing numbers of people inside them, even as radical advocates urged drastic change, and as reformers, corrections professionals, and political representatives called for more rules, regulations, and bureaucracy.

Colonial Williamsburg from World Peace to World War

January 17, 2020

Opening its first building to the public in 1932, Colonial Williamsburg was a monumental immersive environment that restored the small town of Williamsburg, Virginia to its appearance during the eighteenth century. The project was spearheaded by William A. R. Goodwin, an Episcopalian minister in Williamsburg, and funded by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who eventually spent over $60 million on the restoration. Goodwin recruited Rockefeller to fund the project by pointing out the unique opportunity that Williamsburg provided to restore an entire colonial town of historical importance. Williamsburg was the home of one of the country's oldest universities, the College of William and Mary, was frequented by such Virginians as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry, and had served as the capital of the Virginia colony from 1699 to 1780. But after this period, the town experienced relative isolation and a lack of economic development that left many of its colonial buildings extant, while all of its central properties could be acquired for comparatively little expense.

The General Education Board's Involvement in Higher Education for African Americans: The Case of North Carolina College for Negroes, 1909-1930

January 1, 2014

The General Education Board's (GEB) substantial contributions to African American education in the South are well documented, but how the Board prioritized what types of black educational institutions to fund has received less attention. How did the Board decide between public and private schools, industrial training and academic curricula, common schools and colleges? And how did the Board's thinking on these issues evolve over time due to changes in personnel and leadership? Furthermore, to what extent did the preferences of white Southerners influence the Board's decision making in these matters? My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center focused on three institutions that represented the full range of possibilities for black education in the early twentieth century. North Carolina College for Negroes at Durham, which was chartered in 1925 as the region's first state-sponsored four-year liberal arts college for African Americans, began as the privately funded but denominationally unaffiliated National Religious Training School in 1909. The Mississippi Negro Training School, which did not became part of the Mississippi state system until 1940, began in 1882 as Jackson College, an institution supported by the American Home Baptist Missionary Society. Virginia State College for Negroes in Petersburg, chartered in 1930, had been part of the public system since its establishment as Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute in 1882. In 1902, its name was changed to Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute. Each of these institutions received financial support from the GEB at some point in their developing years, though none was ever a favorite institution of the Board. Thus, the correspondence records and reports for these schools in the GEB files reveal more rejections than acceptances of funding proposals. But within these interoffice discussions of why the Board chose not to fund these schools is a treasure trove of information. Because of chronic underfunding, several historically black colleges and universities possess little in the way of archival records concerning their institutional pasts. The state bureaucratic records pertaining to the establishment and maintenance of publicly funded historically black institutions, particularly in Mississippi and Virginia, are also limited. Thus, my research in the GEB records has allowed me to fill in several gaps with regard to the institutional histories of these colleges.

A Review of Programmatic Material on Malaria Control Campaigns

January 1, 2012

This essay describes archival materials related to malaria control campaigns carried out by the International Health Board (IHB) of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) in the United States and Mexico from about 1918 until the early 1940s. While I focus primarily on material held at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), I provide some discussion of relevant materials held elsewhere. The research presented here is part of my dissertation project, which explores the political logic of disease control in the pre-World-War-II US South and in mid-twentieth century Mexico. The RAC was an ideal source for the project, owing to the important, albeit different roles that the IHB played in public health efforts in both countries.

The Battle for the Schoolhouse in Jim Crow Georgia

January 1, 2011

The Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) awarded me a travel grant to do research at the RAC from June 23-30, 2010. I am working on a monograph which examines the experience and evolving meaning of education in one rural Georgia county (Hancock) from Reconstruction until the Brown decision of 1954. This new study builds on my earlier publication, The Rural Face of White Supremacy, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005, which was an examination of the daily experience of race relations in this plantation-belt county during the Jim Crow Era. The current research project will trace the contours of the debates over the meaning of education in the county, including black and white perspectives about what kind of education was best suited for the needs of whom. It also examines changes in the availability of education: the funding of teachers, the condition of schoolhouses, the length of terms, etc. Primarily, I want to know how ordinary black and white farmers of all classes understood the purpose of education during these decades. I want to understand how each generation within this period put their educations to use.

Rockefeller Support and the Growth of Public Welfare Programs in North Carolina in the 1920s

January 1, 2011

In the 1920s, North Carolina earned the moniker the "Wisconsin of the South" for its progressive social programs. At the heart of its progress was a network of devoted reformers. These reformers could not have been effective without numerous public-private partnerships, which fostered the growth of North Carolina's public welfare system. Rockefeller funds underwrote the cooperative efforts of university leaders and state officials, as well as each group's unilateral efforts to transform the state. In the course of Rockefeller interactions with North Carolina, moreover, Rockefeller officials' decisions shaped the boundaries and future direction of public welfare, social work, and social science research in the state and region. The records at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) -- in particular, the records of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), and the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial (LSRM) -- describe the evolution of the state's welfare programs, and establish links between North Carolina's welfare programs and national philanthropic efforts.

Northern Hunting Plantations in the Red Hills Region, 1870-1930

January 1, 2010

In 1919, Walter C. Teagle had already served two years as president of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. This was also the year that Walter E. Edge, a friend, and then governor of New Jersey, introduced Teagle to the Red Hills Region of southwest Georgia and northern Florida, an area already renowned by wealthy sportsmen for its winter hunting colony. Teagle liked the area shooting enough to purchase land in Leon County, Florida, for a collective hunting preserve that he and eight other hunters named Norias. The group proceeded to buy adjoining lands and eventually increased their holdings to 19,000 acres. Several years into the venture, Teagle bought all interest in the land and turned the hunting club into his private estate. The business ethos that Teagle cultivated as a mover in the oil refining industry permeated his leisure activities; his biographers note that his "drive for efficiency and perfection applied at Norias in the same manner as it did everywhere else." According to the biographers, Teagle's relationship with his estate workers indicated his efficient, yet progressive business sensibilities.

Winthrop Rockefeller: Arkansas Politics

January 1, 2010

In April 2009 I conducted research on the Winthrop Rockefeller Papers held at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) on microfilm with the help of a grant-in-aid. My research, following on from my extensive body of previous publications on the civil rights movement in Arkansas, sought to examine the impact that Winthrop Rockefeller had on race relations in the state as governor between 1967 and 1971. The rich collection of material I discovered expanded my focus to the larger project of writing the first full-length biography of Winthrop Rockefeller. In August 2009 I trod the boards in the newly renovated suite of offices at the RAC as the first scholar-in-residence to work there.

The Problematic Legacy of Judge John Handley: R. Gray Williams, The General Education Board, and Progressive Education in Winchester, Virginia, 1895-1924

January 1, 2008

When the John Handley School opened in Winchester, Virginia in the fall of 1923, the impressive structure and its carefully landscaped grounds were the culmination of a process that began in 1895 with the death of Judge John Handley of Scranton, Pennsylvania, a man who had never lived in the city that was to benefit from his fortune. For reasons known only to himself, Handley left the city of Winchester funds to erect a library and, somewhat more vaguely, to build schools for the education of its poor children. His bequest set in motion a long process of institution building that involved law suits, wrangling over the terms of the bequest, and public controversy that involved the executors of Handley's estate in Pennsylvania; Winchester's mayor and city council; the city council's independent agent, the Handley Board of Trustees; the Winchester School Board; residents of the city; and the General Education Board, a philanthropic organization based in New York City, to whom the Handley trustees turned for advice and assistance in making its vision of education for Winchester's children a reality.

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