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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The Midwest Program on Airborne Television Instruction and the Ford Foundation

November 6, 2020

The Midwest Program on Airborne Television Instruction (MPATI) was a major investment by the Ford Foundation and other philanthropies in the 1950s and 1960s.  Project administrators used broadcast antennae on airplanes to provide educational programs to schools across a six-state region, with the goal of closing the gap between wealthy, higher-performing schools in the region, and poorer school systems in cities and rural areas.  Furthermore, MPATI was envisioned as a potential model for other disadvantaged regions, such as Appalachia, as well as for other nations.  This report draws primarily from correspondence between Ford Foundation officials and MPATI administrators.

Education; Ford Foundation; Technology; Television

University Development of American Foundations in British Africa

September 10, 2020

This paper discusses Rockefeller and Ford Foundations' participation in the development of new universities in former British Africa in the post-war era. By utilising sources from the Rockefeller Archive Center, it suggests that while American foundations' engagement with African universities has been merely described as "generous" in the context of British imperial histories, the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations had also projected their own philanthropical and diplomatic agendas for African universities. This report focuses specifically on initiatives of the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and their perspectives on British-style development of African universities in Ghana and Nigeria. I argue that vigorous engagements of American foundations had an energising effect on the growth of African universities. Through analysis of the ways in which American foundations participated in and dominated the development of African universities, this report shows a more balanced picture of both Anglo-American cooperation and competition for new universities from the 1950s to 1970s. This research comes out of my doctoral research on British strategies for new universities at the end of the British Empire, focusing on the activities of the InterUniversity Council for Higher Education in the Colonies (later renamed the InterUniversity Council for Higher Education Overseas).

Management, Modernity and Nation-Building: The Contested Histories of Management Education in India

June 17, 2020

The United States has been at the forefront of globalization of research and education in the field of Management. US business schools and philanthropic foundations, most notably the Ford Foundation, have led the institutionalisation of management research and education institutions across the globe. In the global histories of Management, there has been a long-standing interest in interrogating US influence on management theory, curricula, pedagogy, and practices of knowledge production. Commonly understood as Americanization, these global histories of management have mapped the diverse and particular historical trajectories of the field in various parts of the globe, most notably western Europe, the Mediterranean, Brazil, and India. (See, for example: contributions to a symposium issue of Journal of Management Inquiry, led by Üsdiken 2004; also see Gemelli 1998, Srinivas 2008, among others.)

African Students in the United States: Circulations, Politics and Transfers in the Global 60s

May 19, 2020

When more than thirty African countries gained independence in the early 1960s, most of them faced a shortage of qualified manpower to implement their new national projects. The colonial powers had often excluded the vast majority of Africans from higher education, allowing them only to obtain technical qualifications and rarely the skills to become managers. Higher education for Africans was therefore one of the most important issues for the continent's leaders in the aftermath of independence. This goal was also important in the United States: philanthropic foundations, academics, civil rights activists, and politicians, each for different reasons, wanted to participate in the education of the new African elites. The convergence of the interests of these African and American actors led to the creation of two scholarship programs, the African Scholarship Program of American Universities (ASPAU) in 1961 and the African Graduate Fellowship Program (AFGRAD) in 1963. These two programs, which continued until the 1990s, together enabled more than 4,000 young people from 45 African countries to study in the United States.

Psychologizing School Problems: The Science of Personality Adjustment in Interwar U.S.

April 28, 2020

This research report is part of my dissertation project, "Creating the Well-Adjusted Citizen: The Human Sciences and Public Schools in the United States, WWI - 1950," which examines the ideas of psychological adjustment and shifting meanings of the "well-adjusted citizen" in the human sciences and in public schools. The goal of the dissertation is to explore the implications of adjustment thinking upon the scrutiny of emotional fitness among its citizenry in the United States. This report focuses specifically on how human scientists and educators approached the interpretation or measurement of personality in the interwar years. I argue that within scientific constructions of personality, there existed two tendencies: one sought to quantify and standardize personality into separable traits or measurable quotient; the other treated personality as a dynamic and holistic process in the context of individuals' interactions with culture. Both tendencies bore epistemological and political implications in the history of psychology and schooling. Ultimately, the ways in which experts and educators conceptualized personality shaped ideas of human differences and functioned to reinforce hierarchical understandings of human nature.

Communication of Librarianship between China and the United States in the R.O.C. Period: A Preliminary Report

April 17, 2020

As a part of my Ph.D. dissertation, "From Professional Activity to Cultural Diplomacy: Communication of Librarianship between China and the United States in the R.O.C Period" (a period also known as 民国,from 1912 to 1949), I sought to understand the position philanthropic foundations played in library communication during this period. This paper is only a preliminary report of my findings related to my visit to the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in 2016.  While there, my work focused on evaluating the Rockefeller Foundation's role and impact on the course of Sino-American library and book exchanges.  From my experience, I recognize the extensive value of the RAC archives on this topic.

Separate and Unequal: Giftedness in the United States 1900 – 2000

March 5, 2020

This project studies how parents, educators, and experts mobilized ideas about race and intelligence in the postwar era to separate students on the basis of "ability," re-inscribing racial segregation in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. Using previously unexplored archives, I argue that despite the breadth of the definition of giftedness—which emphasized exceptional ability in a variety of subjects including music, athletics, and leadership—giftedness ultimately came to be defined by differences in degrees of academic ability rather than kinds of ability. Experts chose to measure giftedness through an IQ exam. Giftedness appealed to a wide variety of actors because of the flexibility of the term; it could be used to promote the expansion of educational opportunities to disadvantaged groups including the working class, women, and minorities. But at the same time, giftedness could also be used to maintain the status quo by legitimizing the existing social order as natural and fair, based on the results of unbiased tests. The Cold War initially enabled the implementation of policies to group gifted students in separate classrooms and schools amidst concerns about whether "segregation" of ability was undemocratic. Instead, experts found that segregation was indeed fair and democratic because it promoted equality of opportunity as opposed to equality. Experts and educators argued this practice was more likely to promote academic achievement for gifted students over other alternatives. Thus, I make an interdisciplinary intervention in the literature on academic tracking in the social sciences and education policy by exploring how and why this practice became widespread.

A Progressivist Program in China: Planning and Building Peking Union Medical College

February 24, 2020

At the Rockefeller Archive Center, I conducted archival research on the architectural history of Peking Union Medical College, a major enterprise of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) and the China Medical Board (CMB), which was funded by the RF. The buildings of PUMC are still standing and are widely recognized as the precursor of attempts to adapt the best of Chinese architectural elements to modern Western science. This adaptation was first described and analyzed by Professor Jeff Cody who also visited the RAC in the early 1990s. It had been vehemently criticized by the first generation of Chinese architects in the 1930s and 1940s for overwhelming emphasis on the roof with little systematic research at the time, and was further dismissed as the bastion of American imperialism under Maoism. But undeniably, the buildings of PUMC have a distinct place in modern Chinese architectural history, and need to be well-analyzed based on exhaustive collection and careful reading of related archives.

Ford Foundation Support for Bilingual Education in the Civil Rights Era

February 7, 2020

This report is part of a book project that examines the ways that the institutionalization of bilingual education in the post-Civil Rights era served to maintain racial hierarchies. The primary focus of the report examines the role of the Ford Foundation in funding this institutionalization of bilingual education. After providing a general overview of the foundation's support for bilingual education internationally and domestically, it examines the Ford Foundation's support for bilingual education within its broader efforts to promote the creation of and institutionalization of the Southwest Council of La Raza (SWCLR). This report illustrates the ways that the Ford Foundation was able to effectively utilize funding as leverage for pressuring the SWCLR to transition away from supporting politically contentious community organizing work toward a professional advocacy organization focused on lobbying elite political actors. This, in turn, also pressured more radical elements of the Mexican American community to moderate their stances through active participation in electoral politics. As a result, bilingual education gradually shifted from being an issue connected to grassroots political struggles toward professionalized advocacy reliant on philanthropic and federal funding. As this funding began to dry up with the ascendency of neoliberalism, Mexican American community leaders found themselves ill-equipped to counter the dismantling of bilingual education.

"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.

The Ford Foundation and Brazilian Economics: Modernization, Community-Building, and Pluralism

October 3, 2019

After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the center of gravity of U.S. foreign policy turned vigorously toward Latin America. Technical cooperation and foreign aid initiatives designed for the region regained some of the momentum they had enjoyed during the early years of Truman's Point IV Program. The trend, moreover, was duly accommodated by U.S. philanthropic foundations. The Ford Foundation (FF), which had been very timid in engaging Latin America till that time, decided to launch a massive assistance program aimed at the region, beginning in the early 1960s. If the International Cooperation Administration (ICA) and the newly created USAID did not hesitate to work directly with the governmental apparatus they found in place within the several Latin American countries, the FF preferred instead to assist non-governmental institutions that could provide the human and intellectual capital necessary to overcome the challenges of underdevelopment. Institution-building in the fields of higher education and academic research thus became one of the touchstones of the Ford Foundation's program for Latin America.

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.

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