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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Friends in Foreign Places: International Understanding in Post-War Civil Society

August 19, 2022

My project seeks to understand the changing practices and discourses of internationalism within post-war British and American civil society. The practices of international friendship—with their emphasis on people-to-people connections—form a crucial but understudied part of the picture of postwar internationalism. My aim with this project is to address the neglect of the "everyday" by using international friendship projects as a window onto discourses and practices of internationalism. In doing so, it will contribute to new and emerging research on the role of emotion and intimacy in shaping transnational relationships. This report explores these issues in relation to three initiatives that sought or received funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in the mid- to late 1950s: the Experiment in International Living (a youth exchange program), the Asia Society for cultural and educational exchange, and Eisenhower's expansive but poorly focused People to People Program.

John D. Rockefeller 3rd Papers; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation

Neither Right nor Left: Grassroots Black Conservatism in Post-World War II America

August 25, 2020

Over the past two decades, the growth of scholarship on the history of modern conservatism and the rise of the New Right has moved this ideology from the margins of American society to mainstream political thought. Much of this work has foregrounded the lives, organizations, and political activity of white conservatives in the U.S. But scholars have begun to pay more serious attention to African Americans and their leadership in the Republican Party during the postwar era. Notwithstanding the significance of this emerging literature, it places a strong national and state focus on the instrumental role of black Republicans who waged an uphill battle to secure the GOP's commitment to civil rights and racial equality. My project adopts a more bottom-up approach to understanding the development of modern black conservatism and its impact on the African American struggle for racial equality, focusing on its evolution in local communities from 1950 to 1985. I contend that even though the important role of black Republicans and conservatives at the national level during this period has begun to receive more attention, the lesser well-known individuals and groups, especially black women, who helped to shape conservative ideas about crime, education, and economic advancement, require further study. In addition, there is a dearth of local studies that examine how ordinary men and women critically influenced conservative ideas about racial uprisings, Black Power, busing, welfare, police brutality, the War on Poverty, gay rights and feminism. I argue that while some African Americans ostensibly appropriated conservative ideas about family, morality, and individualism, others refashioned these ideas to address their racialized experiences.

African American Studies; Ford Foundation; Nelson A. Rockefeller Gubernatorial Records; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family

Brazil: Transition and Reconciliation, a Cold War Strategy

July 7, 2020

My research project analyzes the Latin American Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, from 1977 (when it was established) to 1983. The Center is important for Brazilian and Latin American history especially because of the iconic discussions within the social sciences about the transition to democracy and the academic and political repercussions of that process. Financed by the Rockefeller and the Ford Foundations, the Latin American Program was established under the direction of Abraham Lowenthal, with the support of a very selective group of intellectuals, including Robert A. Dahl, Juan Linz, Adam Przeworski, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Albert Otto Hirschman, Guillermo O'Donnell, Ricardo Ffrench-Davis, Leslie Manigot, Olga Pelecer de Brody, Thomas Skidmore, Karen Spalding, and Philippe C. Schmitter. The Latin American Program held three big conferences on the subject of transition and published them in four volumes in 1988, under the title Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Prospects for Democracy, edited by Guillermo O'Donnell, Philippe C. Schmitter, and Laurence Whitehead. Albeit the importance of the "Transition Project," not much is known about the organization of the conferences and the involvement of different scholars, students, and government staff at the debates, reports, and meetings held at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, already one of the most important think tank organizations in the USA. In this project, I propose to explore the complexity of those debates, the agenda, and efforts to move from dictatorships to democratic governments.

Academic Research and Education; Cold War; Political Science; Rockefeller Foundation; Social Sciences

No Dead Languages, Only Dormant Minds: U.S.- Spanish Educational Exchanges through the Ford Foundation

November 11, 2019

My dissertation examines the role of smart power in U.S.-Spain relations during the Spanish transition to democracy. The archives of the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) held several collections that enriched my analysis of the development of soft power by the United States in Spain. At the archives, I found records on the movement of Pablo Picasso's Guernica from the Museum of Modern Art to the Prado in Madrid, Nelson Rockefeller's impact on the Spanish transition, how the Ford Foundation and Peter Fraenkel helped administer Spanish educational reforms and exchanges of the 1970s, and how human rights played a vital role in the Spanish transition.

Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Papers; Education; Ford Foundation; International Relations; Nelson A. Rockefeller Vice Presidential Records; Rockefeller Family

From Propitious Birth, through Troubled Adolescence, to Prosperous Maturity: The Journey of the National Committee on United States- China Relations, 1966-1972

September 24, 2019

One of the primary goals of the founders of the National Committee on United States-China Relations was to encourage discussion of China policy. In 1966, when they formed the group, there was little debate on the topic, and much public ignorance concerning current and recent events on the Chinese mainland. While the NCUSCR as an organization took no political positions, its leaders all supported ending the U.S. isolation of the Chinese Communists and pursuing a new policy of outreach and rapprochement. This occasioned some opposition from conservatives who supported existing policies, and who saw the Committee as a de facto lobby, despite its leaders' protestations of non-partisanship and its tax-exempt status as a non-political organization. Within less than five years, the Committee appeared to become a victim of its own success. Discussion of the issue was uncontroversial, and President Nixon had begun the process of outreach to China. The organization gave serious consideration to closing up shop. Yet rapprochement, while threatening one primary mission, increased opportunities to pursue the other: public education, particularly in the form of cultural exchanges. This gave the group new relevance and renewed public prominence, allowing it to maintain its presence and persevere.

Detente; International Relations; National Committee on United States-China Relations

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.

Endemic Yellow Fever and Immunization in Sub-Saharan Africa

January 1, 2014

Yellow fever is a highly fatal, incurable viral infection. Not all who are bitten by an infected mosquito develop symptoms but many of those who do experience fever, headache, pain, nausea and dizziness over a period of three to six days at which point they recover and are thereafter fully immune. Less fortunate are those who develop the classic symptoms of yellow fever. Following a brief period of remission, the onset of classic yellow fever is signaled by the return of high fever together with nausea and vomiting. It is at this point that the more frightening symptoms of jaundice, kidney failure and hemorrhage appear, leading at times to the black vomit or vomito negro for which the condition was once known. As an incurable infection, physicians can do very little for people suffering from yellow fe ver and half of those who develop severe symptoms experience shock, seizures and become comatose before dying. This high mortality and lack of effective treatment make the return of yellow fever a fearful prospect and explain why it was once a terrifying disease. In the Americas, yellow fever was, for a period of several hundred years, an unrelenting source of epidemics causing significant loss of life and endless commercial disruption.

U.S. Foundations in Weimar Germany: Asymmetries and Misunderstandings

January 1, 2013

The research period that I spent at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), generously supported by a RAC Grant-In-Aid, provided important information toward the completion of my dissertation on "Conceptions of Civil Society during the Weimar Republic: Civil Discourse, Leadership Principle, and People's Community." The files I have consulted at the RAC complement the material I have already analyzed at the Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin, Germany) on the "German College for Politics," (Deutsche Hochschule für Politik or DHfP) which was supported by the Laura Spelmann Rockefeller Memorial (LSRM) and the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) in the inter-war period. I will be able to fully evaluate the implications of the records of the RAC once I complete the investigation of additional archival material from other German archives -- Staatsbibliothek Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Landesarchiv Berlin, and Deutsches Bundesarchiv.

Interwar Years; Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial; Rockefeller Foundation

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.

The Downtown Lower Manhattan Association

January 1, 2009

David Rockefeller's Downtown Lower Manhattan Association (DLMA) helped create SoHo, one of the first New York neighborhoods to revitalize at a time of real and perceived decline in American central cities. In the years from 1960 to 1980, SoHo (roughly the 12 square blocks between Broadway, West Broadway, Houston and Canal Streets in Manhattan) went from a declining industrial area filled with decrepit loft buildings to a vibrant artist colony filled with increasingly upscale art galleries, retail stores and loft residences. In a sense, SoHo was one of New York's first gentrified neighborhoods.

Private Philathropy and the Public Sector

January 1, 2009

Although private charity and voluntarism are often understood as alternatives to state programs, in the United States government often acts through these formally private channels. In the face of national crisis and war, popular mobilization has been organized through membership in private, voluntary organizations. The practices of charity and voluntary donation have generated substantial financial and material support for state activities from foreign wars to the relief of domestic disasters. This pervasive entanglement of public agencies and voluntary practices is the central puzzle for my current book project, Civic Nation: Voluntarism and the Governing of the United States.

Revisiting the Filer Commission: John D. Rockefeller 3rd's Legacy

January 1, 2009

The Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs was founded in November 1973 to study the role of philanthropic organizations in the American public policy landscape. The Filer Commission, named for committee chair John Filer, Chief Executive Officer of the Aetna Life and Casualty Company in Hartford, Connecticut, brought together a diverse group of representatives from all sectors to conduct a two-year inquiry into "the value to our nation of the private philanthropic initiative. The commission's report, Giving in America: Toward a Stronger Voluntary Sector (1975), and accompanying research papers remain the most comprehensive study of the nonprofit sector. The 30th anniversary of the commission's commentary has passed with virtually no pomp, a vexing reality given the widely recognized significance of the commission's findings.

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