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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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

The Aesthetics of Scientific Neutrality

March 25, 2021

On February 9th, 1932, the Rockefeller family's new Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), in Manhattan, opened its first architectural exhibition, "Modern Architecture: International Exhibition (1932)," curated by Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock. While the Museum would soon be leveraged to create connections between Latin America and the United States, beginning with Mexico in particular, "Modern Architecture" focused exclusively on designs realized within the Global North in order to challenge Europe's modern architectural hegemony, while shaping the aesthetic choices of US architects and the general public. Though the exhibition was a resounding success in its time, its co-publication, The International Style (1932), conceived by Barr and Hitchcock before the decision to launch the exhibition, has ensured the circulation of the curators' concerns over the intervening decades.

Rockefeller Foundation

"Law and Development" in Latin America, 1965-1979

October 28, 2019

In the context of the "Decade of Development," and as part of the non-military strategies of containment of communism, different public and private US. institutions turned their attention to projects of technical assistance in Asia, Africa, and Latin America that sought to modernize the legal systems of the countries of the Third World. In the Inter-American context, several initiatives were promoted under the label "Law and Development" (LD). Financed mostly by the Ford Foundation and USAID, they were conceived and implemented in the 1960s and the 1970s by those institutions, in cooperation with US law schools (Harvard, Stanford, Wisconsin, and Yale, among others) and local universities in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Peru. The common purpose of these programs was the transformation of the national legal systems following the US model. The effort centered on removing obstacles to development attributed to obsolete legal structures and a conception of the role of the law and lawyers incompatible with the challenges of modernization.

Academic Research and Education; Ford Foundation; Law

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

"From Mosquitoes to People": Marston Bates and the Rockefeller Foundation International Health Division

July 2, 2019

This essay charts the career of the entomologist and popular author Marston Bates (1906-1974) within the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) between 1935 and 1952. Today, Bates is best remembered as a science communicator. Publishing over a dozen books on natural history and the environment, he helped bring ecological ideas to broader public audiences during the 1950s and 1960s. Not simply a popularizer of contemporary scientific concepts, Bates stood out for his critical commentary on the environmental problems of economic development, conservation, and global population growth, as well as the need for more integrative, cross-disciplinary approaches to understanding humans in nature. Long before becoming a public intellectual, however, he worked for the RF as a mosquito specialist, serving as director of International Health Division malaria and yellow fever laboratories in Albania, Egypt, and Colombia during the 1930s and 1940s. Bates' mid-career shift from researching mosquito ecology to writing about human ecology may seem to be a sudden left turn. A closer look at the archival record reveals the pivotal role played by the Rockefeller Foundation in shaping Bates' career trajectory and ideas about the environment. Furthermore, placing Bates' work in the context of his time with the RF reveals connections between twentieth-century U.S. environmental thought and international health projects.

Lewis W. Hackett Papers; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

Visiting Nurses and the Rockefeller Foundation in Colombia, 1929-1932

January 17, 2019

Colombia and the United States strengthened their trade, scientific and cultural exchanges during the 1920s. In regards to health and medicine issues, the Rockefeller Foundation played a pivotal role between 1919 and 1945, when it conducted scientific research and financed the battle against infectious diseases, above all yellow fever and hookworm. It also encouraged the development of a public health system in Colombia by creating American-inspired institutions and training health professionals.

Medicine and Healthcare; Nursing; Rockefeller Foundation; Women

Improving Health and Labor Conditions for Coffee Workers: The Role of the Rockefeller Foundation in the Campaigns Against Hookworm in Colombia, 1919 – 1938

February 27, 2018

Hookworm disease received later attention from the Colombian government than it received in other Latin American countries, such as Costa Rica or Brazil. In those countries, the campaigns to combat hookworm were framed within a large national project and had broad support of the government before the arrival of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF). Although in Colombia doctors began to study the disease in the first decade of the twentieth century, and warned early on about the risks to coffee and sugarcane plantation workers, the government did not take such warnings seriously until the 1920s.  At that time, it signed a cooperation agreement with the Rockefeller Foundation to start the fight against tropical anemia.

Agrarian and Rural; Medicine and Healthcare; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

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