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 resource.rockarch.org. 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

Black Land, Black Power, and Liberal Philanthropy

November 9, 2021

The late 1960s saw a revival of the "land question" in African American public life. This was in part a product of the political and intellectual upheavals of the late 1960s, as exponents of the Black Power movement cited the desirability of economic empowerment, institution building, and consciousness-raising as preconditions of nationhood. Liberal philanthropies, such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Ford Foundation, and others, were central funders of a variety of land-based activism in the rural South, reshaping the process and limits of African American-led rural development initiatives in the region.

African American Studies; Agrarian and Rural; Ford Foundation; Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Jackson Davis’s Imprint on the General Education Board Archive

November 1, 2021

A central figure in the General Education Board's effort to improve the lot of southern African Americans was Jackson Davis (1882-1947), a white Virginian who emerged from post-Reconstruction southern society to intervene in the educational disparity that disadvantaged Black school children. Informed by progressive graduate training from Columbia Teachers College, Davis worked in Virginia in the early decades of the twentieth century to secure opportunities for Black teachers and pupils within the emerging separate-but-unequal system of education in the South. That is not to say that Davis, who was directly affiliated with the GEB from 1915 until his death, supported the racial integration of schools, only that he recognized the detriment inherent in under-resourced education for African American children, whose facilities were usually poor and teachers often inadequately trained. As we position Davis's significant contribution within the GEB's program of African American outreach and funding, we must acknowledge him as a white man of a specific time and place but with distinct professional, and perhaps personal, experiences that shaped his views on race and most likely influenced the perspectives of his GEB colleagues. 

African American Studies; General Education Board; Journalism

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

Building a Racial Laboratory in Hawai‘i: Knowledge and Transnationality in the Early Twentieth-Century Pacific

September 12, 2019

In the early 20th century, Hawai'i became a dynamic site of encounters between American settlers and Japanese immigrants. With the rise of the plantation economy, the white plantation oligarchs deployed various means of discipline vis-à-vis Japanese immigrants to ensure the availability of a reliable labor force. The new regime of bodily discipline mobilized a variety of institutions, including the University of Hawai'i and the Rockefeller Foundation. At the center of this emerging dynamic was a group of white home economists who, under the leadership of Carey D. Miller, investigated the immigrants' bodily features, analyzed their dietary practices, and collected data essential to understanding and managing race. My project examines how Japanese immigration provided an impetus for the rise of racial science in Hawai'i, where women and domesticity played a crucial though hitherto unacknowledged role. Historical documents at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) are essential for this investigation, as they illuminate the historical and institutional contexts within which these women operated. The letters, reports, and memoranda preserved at the RAC unveil the origin and development of a "racial laboratory" in Hawai'i, whose formation had much to do with gender, sexual, national, and imperial dynamics proliferating in the Pacific.

Anthropology; Rockefeller Foundation; Transnational

From Colonial Ethno-Politics to International Demographic Transition Theory? Family Planning Projects in Fiji, 1960-1974

May 23, 2019

The Rockefeller Archive Centre (RAC) is a very rich source of information on the history of family planning and population control in Fiji in the 1960s and early 1970s. The RAC holds files relating to a multitude of organisations great and small that looked to Rockefeller-funded organisations such as the Population Council for advice and/or financial support. Therefore, it is a great resource for analysing the work of voluntary associations, such as the Fiji Family Planning Association (FFPA), which do not always have their own centralised archive, and provide information on discussions beyond the official publications of intergovernmental development organisations such as the South Pacific Commission (SPC). Through these files, it was possible to trace the evolution of the debate around the promotion of family planning in Fiji. In the 1950s, colonial officials in Fiji were preoccupied with demographic disparities between the two largest ethnic groups in Fiji – Fijians and Indo-Fijians. The Population Council files consulted demonstrate that in the 1960s and early 1970s the rationale for introducing family planning in Fiji changed to addressing total population in line with international ideas of demographic transition theory and the need for global population control, although this did not lead to a total departure from colonial thinking. Beyond the files on family planning, the RAC also holds information on other maternal and child health programmes that further demonstrate the uneasy interface between colonial and international health after the Second World War.

Asian Cultural Council; Ford Foundation; Population Council; Population and Reproductive Sciences; Rockefeller Foundation

Egyptological Conversations about Race and Science

February 15, 2018

In 1908, when James Henry Breasted published ancient copies of some Biblical texts, he hoped that one interested reader would be Booker T. Washington. Breasted wrote to Washington to bring the matter to his attention, providing him with a copy of the article and explaining its general content. At that time, Washington was preoccupied with the aftermath of an injustice done to black soldiers stationed in Brownsville, Texas, and the subsequent refusal of Theodore Roosevelt, whom Washington had formerly advised, to undo the damage to the men's reputations, careers, and futures. Nonetheless, Washington replied to Breasted the following week, expressing his polite interest in the matter and noting that although he had not had the time to acquaint himself with the ancient history of Ethiopia, he noted that many West African traditions traced their cultural heritage to "a distant place in the direction of ancient Ethiopia." Washington wondered if that "distant place" and the subject matter of Breasted's article could be one and the same. "Could it be possible that these civilizing influences had their sources in this ancient Ethiopian kingdom to which your article refers?" If Washington saw ancient "Ethiopia," that is, the southern Nile River Valley, also known as the Upper Nile, Nubia, and in contemporary political designation the Sudan, as the source of other African people's culture, Breasted would have concurred.

Archaeology; General Education Board; John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Papers; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family

The Culture and Practice of International Health in Asia and the Pacific

November 14, 2017

My work at the Rockefeller Archive Center evolved into a study of the making of an international community of public health experts and researchers across imperial Asia and the Pacific. My initial interest lay with the history professional associations, particularly the Far Eastern Association of Tropical Medicine (FEATM) and the Pacific Science Association (PSA). The FEATM was established in Manila in 1908, largely through American initiative, whilst the Pacific Science Association developed out of a similar dynamic in Hawaii in 1920. In addition to fostering the exchange of ideas, research, and practices, these associations also proclaimed the goal of cultivating international understanding, fellowship, and ultimately peace through cooperation. Many of the personnel of the International Health Board (IHB) of the Rockefeller Foundation were either founders or enthusiastic participants in these associations, whilst the IHB supported many of the institutions, projects, and students across Asia and the Pacific that presented their work at their international congresses. I thus hoped to use officers diaries, correspondence, and reports held at the Rockefeller Archive Center to trace the movements and connections between health officials and scientists in Asia and the Pacific. The official publications of the FEATM and PSA promoted the goodwill of international conferences, so it was important to consult more private and confidential sources to discover what tensions and hostilities coexisted with cooperation and exchange.

China Medical Board RG 4; Medicine and Healthcare; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

Poor, White, and Wormy: Hookworm Eradication in the South and the Boundaries of Whiteness and Citizenship

January 1, 2017

In Medical reformers believed hookworm eradication was important because it helped reinforce the boundaries of "proper whiteness." Images of barefoot and emaciated families, living in extreme poverty and filth due to the draining nature of hookworm disease, made it hard to boast of the universal superiority of the white race. Although interventionists agreed that there were many steps in remedying "the poor white problem," eradicating hookworm seemed to be a crucial component to re-making cultural perceptions of the class of people most often afflicted with the disease. Those involved with the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission's anti-hookworm work hoped their involvement would be enough to turn poor whites' "improper whiteness" into "proper whiteness," thereby strengthening the race's associated cultural and political authority.

Training Poor Whites: The General Education Board and Southern Education

January 1, 2017

The early years of the General Education Board are usually studied in reference to its efforts to shape the education of African-Americans. The board took a racist paternalist stance which encouraged the industrial education of blacks, such as through its support and funding for the Tuskegee Institute of Booker T. Washington. And it discouraged or, at least, did not encourage, the higher education of African-American education in areas such as the liberal arts. Yet, in an era where support for the education of African-Americans was politically and physically dangerous, the Rockefeller philanthropies were unusually progressive and, through the GEB, contributed millions of dollars of funding for black schools and colleges. What is often forgotten is that the education of blacks was not a priority of the early years of the GEB. Instead, as W.E.B. Du Bois confirmed, 'it put stress on and gave precedence to the education of whites'. In the early years of Rockefeller educational philanthropy, the Southern and General Boards of Education made sure that the focus was on Poor Whites.

Researching Uganda's national parks at the RAC

January 1, 2016

My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center was conducted for my doctoral thesis which examines the history of the northern lowlands of Uganda's Albertine Rift Valley since the mid-nineteenth century. This area, which roughly corresponds to the modern-day district of Buliisa, has recently come to national and international attention as the location of some of the largest onshore crude oil fields discovered in Africa in the last few decades. Since the discoveries were made in 2006, conflict and tensions have arisen between and among communities, the state, and multi-national oil companies, over land, compensation and the anticipated revenues from the exploitation of this resource. But the lowlands have long been a site of struggle between different actors. It has for some time been the focus of particularly palpable, virulent, nervous and defensive strain of ethnic nativism. My thesis is a historical exploration of the ontological insecurity that has historically driven ethnic nativism and has itself been fuelled by ambiguity over ethnic self-identification and belonging in the valley. This study explores why this marginal place and the social identifications of the peoples who live there have become sites of unusually intense struggle.

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