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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Laurance S. Rockefeller and the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission: Race, Recreation, and the National Parks

February 25, 2022

This project focuses on the links between the conservation movement and civil rights through an examination of the reach and impact of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission (ORRRC) and its chairman, Laurance S. Rockefeller (LSR).  The Commission's landmark report in 1962 identified large racial disparities in access to public lands and recreation across the USA, which prompted the National Park Service (NPS) to establish new National Recreation Areas and Historical Parks in urban areas in the 1960s and 1970s.  The project examines the history of the ORRRC, contextualizes the Commission's work within the longer history of the civil rights movement's efforts to desegregate state and national parks, and NPS efforts to increase recreational opportunities in urban areas.  Based on research in the records of the ORRRC at the Rockefeller Archive Center and in the National Archives, the project also discusses the central role of LSR in the Commission's history, as well as his views on civil rights and public lands.The entire study, commissioned by Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historical Park, includes five chapters.  This report is drawn from chapter 3, which examines the ORRRC's uneven efforts between 1958-62 to identify and recommend remedies for racial disparities in outdoor recreational opportunities in urban areas.  The complete chapter examines ORRRC studies of New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, and Los Angeles, as well as Atlanta, the focus of this report.  

African American Studies; Laurance S. Rockefeller Papers; Leisure and Tourism; Rockefeller Family

“The Gentleman We’re All Talking About”: William Beveridge and the Idea of Postwar Social Planning in the United States during World War II

November 23, 2021

This report traces a 1943 trip to the United States by British economist William Beveridge, whose 1943 "Beveridge Plan" laid the foundation for the postwar British welfare state. Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the trip coincided with a period of intense debate in the United States over the future of the New Deal state and the role of social security and social welfarism in postwar planning. Drawing on previously untapped records at the Rockefeller Archive Center, I use Beveridge's trip, and the reception that he received in the United States, to explore transnational ideas about social security and social and economic rights and how they were contested and debated in the United States. Beveridge's trip to the United States sheds light on how domestic ideas about postwar planning shifted during the war against the backdrop of race relations, the wartime defense economy, and the evolving relationship between business, labor, and the state.

African American Studies; Rockefeller Foundation; World War II

Building Administrative Capacity in the National Government: The Role of Rockefeller-Funded Initiatives, 1910–1930

August 11, 2020

During the 1910s and 1920s, corporate elites and their Republican allies emerged as the leading proponents of central power and national authority in debates about the institutional structure of the federal government. This project traces the progress of their agenda and shows how it was foiled by defenders of local control and white supremacy. The primary focus is on policy debates about three general topics: budget reform, executive reorganization, and anti-lynching. On each of these topics, elite reformers sought to build central power and national authority. In each case, they faced opposition from political leaders from the South and West. Rockefeller-funded initiates—and, indeed, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., himself—played a key role in the elite reform efforts of the 1910s and 1920s. The report that follows presents evidence drawn from records held at the Rockefeller Archive Center.

Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation; Spelman Fund of New York

A New Dealized Grand Old Party: Labor, Civil Rights, and the Remaking of American Liberalism, 1935-1973

July 21, 2020

Drawing on the wealth of material from the Nelson A. Rockefeller papers held at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), my dissertation project examines the rise and fall of the "liberal" wing of the mid-twentieth century Republican Party. Big city Republicans from industrial states faced social movements that made mass democracy a vibrant force. Liberal Republicans emerged among the typically wellto-do men and women of older and established neighborhoods in New York, San Francisco, and Minneapolis. While no less an elite class than other Republican partisans, urban Republicans witnessed the upheavals and political transformation of the city firsthand. Unlike the rural and suburban right, big city Republicans simply could not imagine mounting a frontal assault against the vaunted New Deal coalition. In this setting, the reactionary bent of the party's base actually looked more like an electoral liability. Liberal Republicans insisted that winning statewide (or national) office required votes from major cities home to a diverse and organized working class that otherwise voted for Democrats. But securing any significant segment of that vote required a series of accommodations that most Republicans simply could not tolerate.

Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family; Urban and Suburban

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

Urbanist William H. Whyte and the Observational Study of Public Spaces in New York City

October 16, 2018

I visited the Rockefeller Archive Center to research the William H. Whyte papers for my doctoral dissertation, "Transactional Terrains: Partnerships, Bargains and the Postwar Redefinition of the Public Realm, New York City 1965-1980," that traces the architectural and urban history of the privatization of the public realm. At the center of the research is New York City during the "urban crisis" years of the 1960s. The period saw an ongoing shift in how city and state governments initiated, financed, and managed architecture and urban development. As an administrative apparatus of crisis management, the public-private partnership was the fiscal and legal device that was at the center of this shift. With the public-private partnership, there was an increased emphasis on transactions between jurisdictional authorities and private sector actors. The 1960s witnessed the beginnings of organized cultivation of private sector participation by city and state governments, in the funding, management, and provision of public goods (parks, plazas, and housing). By examining the ecology and economy of these public-private partnerships, the dissertation seeks to examine the privatization of the public realm in New York City as a series of complex intersections between the city's economic, political, urban, architectural and real-estate histories beginning in the 1960s. Urbanist William H. Whyte's writings, research, and speeches on the design and value of public spaces in New York City have shaped policy and theory in architecture, urban design, and planning since the early 1960s. He was a prominent figure, specifically for my first chapter.

Urban and Suburban; William H. Whyte Papers

The Atomic American: Citizenship in a Nuclear State, 1945-1963

January 1, 2017

Nuclear weapons altered the relationship between the American state and its citizens in the early years of the Cold War. From the 1945 Trinity Test forward, Americans grappled with the consequences of the nuclear weapons revolution. Among other challenges facing the nation, it was clear that military defense against a nuclear strike was nearly impossible and civilian preparation programs could cost billions of dollars. Should deterrence peacekeeping fail, Americans would face an attack without military protection, making large-scale civilian casualties unavoidable. "And yet," Senator Brien McMahon puzzled in 1950, "the first duty of a sovereignty is to protect its people." Nuclear weapons unsettled Americans' ideas about federal protection, individual responsibility, and public safety. Under the threat posed by nuclear technology, these conflicting concerns shaped domestic and international policy and framed national community in the Atomic Age.

Winthrop Rockefeller: A Biography

January 1, 2016

My biography of Winthrop Rockefeller will be the first book-length study to examine his life in its entirety from his birth in 1912 to his death in 1973. Born in New York on May 1, 1912, Winthrop spent the first forty years of his life based there. After being educated in New York and Connecticut, Winthrop worked in the oil fields of Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico for three years before returning to New York. Starting in 1940, he began six years in the military, serving in the Pacific theatre during World War II. Upon his return, Winthrop once again attempted to make a permanent career and life in New York. In 1948 he married his first wife, Barbara "Bobo" Sears, and soon after the couple had Winthrop's only biological offspring, Winthrop Paul Rockefeller. In 1949, the couple separated, finally divorcing in 1954. The contested and protracted divorce, played out in the popular press and public eye, led to Winthrop making a life-changing decision in June 1953 when he moved to Arkansas. The move gave Winthrop a newfound sense of purpose and focus, away from the pressures attached to his family name and the responsibilities that came with it. Setting up home on a mountain farm, Winthrop worked in earnest to use his talents and resources to make Arkansas a better place. As part of his new life, he remarried in 1956 to Jeannette Edris, who was from a prominent Seattle family. In 1966, Winthrop was elected governor of Arkansas, the first Republican to hold that office in the state in almost a century. After two terms in which he tried to push through an agenda for reform with mixed success in a still heavily dominated Democratic state, Winthrop lost the office in 1970 to political newcomer Dale Bumpers. Shortly after, Winthrop was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer and died on February 22, 1973. Winthrop's time in Arkansas and his time as governor had a profound impact on the state that is still evident today.

Rockefeller Family; Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation

Nelson Rockefeller and the State University of New York's Rapid Rise and Decline

January 1, 2015

This report focuses on my research into Governor Nelson Rockefeller's role in the expansion of the State University of New York (SUNY) in general and the Buffalo campus in particular for my new book project, The Business of Education: The Corporate Reconstruction of American Public Universities. This manuscript seeks to rewrite the story of twentieth-century public postsecondary schooling in the United States through a reconsideration of both national policies but also case studies that show how a variety of institutions in different regions evolved into the sprawling, research-focused system of "multi-versities," which replaced the private, independent liberal arts college as the exemplar of American higher education. This project emphasizes that state universities have always been dependent on private benefactors because local, state, and federal governments never provided enough funding to support these institutions.

Democracy Assistance in Post-Communist Russia: Case Studies of the Ford Foundation, the C.S. Mott Foundation, and the National Endowment for Democracy

January 1, 2013

This research report specifically focuses on The Ford Foundation, Early Explorations, and Motivations. Historic changes brought about by perestroika, glasnost, and the eventual collapse of the Soviet communist system in the late 1980s and early 1990s offered an unprecedented opportunity for the international community to support transitions to democracy and social transformations in a region that had long known totalitarian rule. Only a few years prior, few could have imagined that democracy's chief global rival -- communism -- would fall so dramatically and so rapidly in the USSR, transforming the day-to-day lives of millions of people who had lived under one-party rule, a command economy, and ideological and institutional control for decades. While financial and technical assistance to support transitions flowed into the region from the governments of industrialized democracies including the United States and many individual member states of the European Community, from international financial institutions, and from multilateral organizations, also among the key institutional players engaged in providing support were U.S. grantmaking institutions.

Exploring Twentieth-Century Politics of Health and Rights through the Biographical Lens: The Life of Chilean Medical Doctor Benjamin Viel Vicuña

January 1, 2013

In much of the western world, the trajectory of health as a right was linked to fundamental negotiations over the "social contract" between state leaders and civil society. In Latin America, most decisive debates over states' responsibilities for public health, and health as a citizenship right, took shape in the twentieth century. Governments began to recognize their role in designing and administering health programs and negotiated their responsibilities and duties. Since the first decades of the past century, the development of health systems at the nation-state level was also influenced by powerful international agencies that mediated new "social contracts" in modernizing nations. Historians have portrayed philanthropic "missionaries of science," like the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), for example, that contributed to the suppression of health threats such as yellow fever and malaria.

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