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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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The General Education Board's Involvement in Higher Education for African Americans: The Case of North Carolina College for Negroes, 1909-1930

January 1, 2014

The General Education Board's (GEB) substantial contributions to African American education in the South are well documented, but how the Board prioritized what types of black educational institutions to fund has received less attention. How did the Board decide between public and private schools, industrial training and academic curricula, common schools and colleges? And how did the Board's thinking on these issues evolve over time due to changes in personnel and leadership? Furthermore, to what extent did the preferences of white Southerners influence the Board's decision making in these matters? My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center focused on three institutions that represented the full range of possibilities for black education in the early twentieth century. North Carolina College for Negroes at Durham, which was chartered in 1925 as the region's first state-sponsored four-year liberal arts college for African Americans, began as the privately funded but denominationally unaffiliated National Religious Training School in 1909. The Mississippi Negro Training School, which did not became part of the Mississippi state system until 1940, began in 1882 as Jackson College, an institution supported by the American Home Baptist Missionary Society. Virginia State College for Negroes in Petersburg, chartered in 1930, had been part of the public system since its establishment as Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute in 1882. In 1902, its name was changed to Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute. Each of these institutions received financial support from the GEB at some point in their developing years, though none was ever a favorite institution of the Board. Thus, the correspondence records and reports for these schools in the GEB files reveal more rejections than acceptances of funding proposals. But within these interoffice discussions of why the Board chose not to fund these schools is a treasure trove of information. Because of chronic underfunding, several historically black colleges and universities possess little in the way of archival records concerning their institutional pasts. The state bureaucratic records pertaining to the establishment and maintenance of publicly funded historically black institutions, particularly in Mississippi and Virginia, are also limited. Thus, my research in the GEB records has allowed me to fill in several gaps with regard to the institutional histories of these colleges.

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 Scholarship Program of the General Education Board from 1950 to 1954

January 1, 2013

From the 1820s onwards, wealthy individuals, enterprises, and religious congregations across the United States provided funding for scholarship and student loan funds entrusted to colleges and universities. These funds often relied on an endowment to produce the funds necessary to support students in need of financial support. Furthermore, while most donors entrusted a university of their choice with their scholarship fund, there were also some scholarship funds such as the La Verne Noyes Scholarship Endowment Fund and the General Board of Education (GEB) that were created outside of the university. Prior to 1945, such funds were extremely rare, but they did exist. The La Verne Noyes Scholarship Endowment Fund, created as a trust in Chicago in 1919, was one of the earliest examples.

Fertility Differentials Between African American and White Women in the Early Twentieth Century American South

January 1, 2013

This research project builds on a half-century of demographic studies about turn-of-thetwentieth-century U.S. race differences in fertility. As background, mid-twentieth century demographers began to study historical fertility differentials when a newly released U.S. 1940 Census Bureau report allowed comparisons of aggregated fertility rates by age, race, region and other characteristics for decennial census years 1910 and 1940. They were surprised to find, in 2 back-casting fertility rates, that at some point prior to 1910 the fertility of African American women had dropped, much more precipitously than that of white women. This was surprising because the fertility of very early nineteenth century white and black women stood at biological maximums, although white women had the highest birth rates of all women in North America and perhaps in the world. It was assumed that white women of the time, like most preindustrial women, had high rates because they had not yet elected to practice voluntary fertility control. In contrast, nineteenth century African and African American women experienced high fertility rates under a system of slavery, until the early1860s, with vastly different constraints regarding fertility control to that point. Were white women first to control their fertility? If so, why did African American fertility rates fall far more quickly, once declines began?

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