Large-scale, organized American philanthropy has long been driven by an awareness of racial and economic inequality. From wealthy individuals’ concern about the US South to organized philanthropic engagement with civil rights and social justice issues throughout the twentieth century, these concerns have shaped programs in education, democratic engagement, public health, and beyond.

Recently Published

Race & Social Justice

In Brief: Manels Before #MeToo

A foundation’s early criticism of the all-male conference panel, before #nomoremanels

Race & Social Justice

In Brief: The South African Institute of Race Relations

How did a US foundation manage to work under apartheid?

Arts & Culture

Programming for the People: Diversity in Early Public Television

How philanthropy helped carve out a public space for the expression of race, culture, and critical perspectives.

International Relations

In Brief: The 1995 Beijing Women’s Conference

The global conversation about women’s issues takes a big step forward.

Race & Social Justice

Who Belongs in the Boy Scouts? Philanthropy’s Support for Black Scouting

How a new foundation helped one of America’s oldest youth organizations become more racially inclusive.

Race & Social Justice

In Brief: James Baldwin’s Creative Writer’s Fellowship

How a foundation provided the final ingredient to an era-defining novel.

Race & Social Justice

An Unlikely Partnership: Ted Watkins and the Rockefeller Foundation

How a charismatic community activist from Watts challenged a foundation’s civil rights strategy.

Explore Further

Issues in Philanthropy

Supporting Economic Justice? Ford’s 1968 PRI Experiment

The Program-Related Investment (PRI), a financial tool invented in the late 1960s, aimed to broaden the scope of recipients that philanthropic funds could help. The Ford Foundation unveiled this new mechanism with $10 million of support to market-based projects in minority enterprise, housing, manufacturing, and community development…

Race & Social Justice

The Rockefeller Foundation Confronts School Inequality

During the height of the US civil rights movement, the Rockefeller Foundation supported the Princeton College Summer Program, aiming to increase the number of minority students going on to college. Despite raising admissions rates successfully, the program also raised larger questions about philanthropy’s capacity to address systemic inequality…

Race & Social Justice

The Origins of the Rockefeller Foundation Equal Opportunity Program

A fundraising appeal from the United Negro College Fund in 1962 prompted the Rockefeller Foundation to design and launch a full-blown Equal Opportunity program, the first in its history. How a simple request come to have such a broad impact…

Race & Social Justice

Photo Essay: Supporting Minority Enterprise in the late 1960s

In 1968, the Ford Foundation began to make social investments using a new tool borrowed from the for-profit world, the Program-Related Investment.

elementaChildren of diverse ethnic backgrounds get ready to go inside their school, two hold hands
Race & Social Justice

Can Data Drive Social Change? Tackling School Segregation with Numbers

In the years before Brown v. Board, a philanthropic fund hoped research and data would turn the tide on attitudes toward segregation.