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.
In the years leading up to Brown v. Board of Education, the prospect of school desegregation loomed large in the South. The Fund for the Advancement of Education, a Ford Foundation creation, launched a massive research project in 1953 to gather and analyze data on American schools. The racially integrated research team believed that the numbers would speak for themselves and usher in a new era of education equality. They were mistaken.
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 did a simple request come to have such a broad impact?
In 1968, the Ford Foundation began to fund minority enterprise and other social investments using a new tool, the Program-Related Investment (PRI). This photo essay shows the breadth of these investments and diversity of activities that PRIs funded in both inner city and rural environments.
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.
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.