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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Researching Human Rights at the Rockefeller Archive Center

April 23, 2021

This report details my January 2014 visit to the Rockefeller Archive Center.  My research agenda was to investigate how and why the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund supported nongovernmental organizations focused on international violations of human rights.  During my time at the Center, I explored two principal topics.  First, I searched records related to the Rockefeller Brothers Fund's support for the International League for Human Rights, Amnesty International USA, Freedom House, and the American Civil Liberties Union, four nongovernmental organizations whose human rights activism was central to my research.  Second, my visit enabled me to explore the broader role played by the Ford Foundation in supporting human rights organizations in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ford Foundation; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Rockefeller Family

Universality in Action: Human Rights Activism in Palestine in the 1980s

March 19, 2020

This research report is a short section from my dissertation investigating Arab human rights NGOs from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. The Ford Foundation provided financial support to several organizations in the region. At the RAC, I was primarily interested in the Palestinian organization Al Haq, located in the West Bank, though I was also able to gather material about NGOs in Gaza, Tunisia, and Cairo. My goal was to understand how these organizations used international law in their advocacy. The chapter from which this report is drawn details how the work of Arab NGOs contributes to the debates over whether human rights law is universal. The chapter argues that human rights practice is an important piece of this discussion. It details how Arab NGOs created, adapted, and implemented what were becoming hallmarks of human rights advocacy: factfinding and documentation, education, litigation, and international advocacy. The diversity of practices among these organizations highlights that universality does not require homogeneity. The human rights "tent" extends far enough to include both professional, centralized organizations like Al Haq and more sprawling, radical organizations like those discussed elsewhere in the dissertation.

Ford Foundation

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.

Education; Ford Foundation; Latino Studies

International Foundations’ Engagement in the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women and in the Chinese Feminist Movement

November 6, 2019

The United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW), organized by the United Nations in Beijing in 1995, launched a new era of internationalization for the Chinese feminist movement. The conference facilitated the legitimation of non-state-led organizations and activism that advocated for women's rights, as well as gender and sexual equality. During this time, interactions between domestic feminists and international foundations increased dramatically. After the conference, Chinese feminist advocacy and mobilization expanded beyond the party-state system and gained momentum in the decade following 1995. My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) investigated the engagements of the Ford Foundation (FF) in safeguarding women's rights and advocating for gender equality in China, and the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) during the FWCW. This essay draws upon the preliminary findings from my archival research, focusing on the FF's activities in China relating to women and gender issues from the late 1970s to late 2000s, for which the FF archival collection at the RAC is available. The RF's sponsorship during the 1995 Conference is also included. I start with a brief introduction of my research project and materials I found helpful, then elaborate on the two foundations' activities in three sections in a diachronic order, highlighting files available at the RAC and their contribution to my dissertation research. This essay provides only a sketch of the FF and RF's engagements in China, as further investigation of the files I collected at the RAC has not yet finished.

Ford Foundation; Gender; Rockefeller Foundation; Women

"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

The American Legal Programs in Brazil: From Modernization Theory to Human Rights

September 17, 2019

The year 2014 marked 50 years since the civil-military coup in Brazil, on March 31, 1964. Recently, Brazilian historiography has been devoting a renewed interest in this period of the military rule in the country (1964-1985). A common element in the analyses that have developed identifies a significant role for the rule of law-human rights movement in the country, from which it would have been possible to form a systematic opposition to the Brazilian dictatorship that would lead to the transition to democracy. Nevertheless, there is still an existing gap in this discussion about the Brazilian rule of law-human rights movement, which relates to a consistent analysis of the network of politics and practices, connected to the field of law in Western countries since World War II. It is my premise that this analysis will facilitate a better comprehension of the Brazilian transition and its historical connections with the "Global North." The philanthropic foundations played a significant role in promoting this network. My research contributes by filling in aspects of this gap in the Brazilian debate, and provides an analysis of the role played in the rule of law-human rights international movement by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the programs of philanthropic foundations concerning the field of law directed to Latin American countries.

Ford Foundation; Law; Rockefeller Brothers Fund

"Peaceful Revolutionary Heroes": Non-Violence, Revolution, and Opposition in Cold War Peripheries

March 28, 2019

The ascendance of a norm of non-violent protest or "civil resistance" against a government or occupying force may, at first, seem self-evident. As modern states have come to attain overwhelming military and policing powers over their populations, the idea of using violent means to oppose a regime seems ineffective, at best, and dangerous, at worst. Yet, the near total embrace of and insistence on non-violence should not be considered a foregone conclusion. They must be examined historically so as to understand how people across time and space have supported what was fundamentally a radical ideology of resistance to inequality, colonialism, and political repression.This project centers on the question of how non-violence became a norm for resistance and struggle. It focuses on the potential entanglement of two processes of transformation: the Black American freedom struggle and the regime changes in East Central Europe in 1989, that are inexorably linked to non-violence or peaceful transition. It considers how the "other" transatlantic relationship, between Black Americans and eastern Europeans during the Cold War, shaped opposition politics in East Central Europe.  This project places a special emphasis on the intellectual roots, social organization, and tactical methods of non-violent political opposition and peace movements in Hungary from approximately 1947 to 1990. It will also pay special attention to how the socialist ideal of revolutionary action changed over time, as the needs of socialists states changed. These changes then required a reformulation of what type of behavior fit into the framework of communist and anti-communist revolutionary activity, but also a reformulation of masculinized heroism that butted heads with older tropes of the muscular industrial worker and the defiant freedom fighter.

Ford Foundation; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Political Science; Rights; Rockefeller Family

Competing utopias: the relationship between human rights and peace in the policy of the Ford Foundation (1975-2000)

January 1, 2016

My research focuses on the tension between the concepts of peace and human rights. At first sight, the concepts of human rights and peace seem to be indissolubly linked: without peace, human rights are violated; without human rights compliance, peace is impossible. Indeed, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) opens with the recognition that "inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." Unsurprisingly, the Nobel Peace Prize has often been awarded to human rights activists and organizations.

Minority Cause Lawyers and Civil Rights Activism: The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)

January 1, 2014

I received a travel grant from the Rockefeller Archive Center to conduct research at its archives from July 8th to July 19th 2013. I am writing a new book on the political history of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), 1968 to the present. This new study builds on my interests in social movements, political participation, ethnic identity and political power. It expands into new areas by studying the activities and influence of an organization that claims to speak on behalf of a racial and ethnic minority but has no dues paying members, is run by a professional staff and receives virtually all of its funding from philanthropic sources and settlement fees when the group prevails in court. At the same time, the organization has its roots in the Chicano Movement of the 1960s where its founders wanted to create an organization that would serve as the legal arm of a disruptive social movement organization.

The Fracturing Human Rights Consensus: Uruguay's Contested History of Human Rights

January 1, 2013

Two crucial referendums bookended the 1980s in Uruguay. On November 30, 1980, Uruguayans headed to the polls for the first time in over seven years to cast their ballots on a constitutional plebiscite intended to give the armed forces a permanent and more sizeable control of power in the country. Since Juan María Bordaberry dissolved parliament and declared a State of Emergency in 1973, the Uruguayan military had, in the words of a leading human rights organization, established with "unprecedented sophistication a hushed, progressive repression measured out in doses until it gained absolute control over the entire population." During that time, the military shut down the press and imprisoned one in every fifty people, resulting in the highest rate of political incarceration in the world. Hundreds more disappeared, both in Uruguay and neighboring countries and over ten percent of the Uruguayan population fled the country in fear.

Unmaking the Ghetto: Community Development in Bedford-Styvesant during the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements

January 1, 2013

If men do not build, asked the poet, T.S. Elliot, "how shall they live?" In December 1966, Robert F. Kennedy, junior U.S. Senator from New York State, posed this question to a public school auditorium packed with 1,000 of north-central Brooklyn's community organizers. Stretched before him in aluminum folding chairs were men and women who had formed civic associations to improve their communities' schools, sanitation collection, housing, and health care. When they were not working at jobs, or caring for their families, they organized block association meetings, staffed parish councils, ran parent teacher association conferences, initiated voter registration campaigns, attended police precinct committees, administered youth employment drives, and led neighborhood cleanups. Described by social scientists and journalists as embodying a debilitating "culture of poverty," these attendees were actually the organizational heart-and-soul of a place commonly associated with what Kenneth Clark called the "dark ghetto."

African American Civil Rights and the Republican Party

January 1, 2002

Historians and other scholars interested in the politics of the African American freedom struggle since World War II have tended to concentrate on Democratic leaders such as Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson. The role of the Republican party on racial matters, however, has not received nearly as much attention despite widespread agreement that race has played a significant role in the success of the Republican party since the 1960s. My study aims to broaden understanding of the politics and policy of race since World War II by looking directly at how the Republican party approached civil rights and racial matters regarding African Americans.

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