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Beginning in the early 1880s, Rockefeller philanthropy supported educational opportunity for African Americans through gifts to individual schools and through the American Baptist Home Mission Society and, later, the American Baptist Education Society. Original plans called for the General Education Board, established in 1902 and one of the earliest of several Rockefeller corporate philanthropies, to be named the "Negro Education Board."

Although Rockefeller philanthropy consistently supported educational opportunity and worked to improve educational conditions and opportunities for African Americans in the South, it did so within the confines of the Southern system of racial segregation. Rockefeller philanthropy did not seek to overturn or challenge this system. Yet the documents and photographs in the General Education Board Archives and the Rockefeller Family Archives offer stirring glimpses of African Americans' desire for education and the hardships imposed on them by prejudice and discrimination. The files document their efforts to build schools, show their crowded and bare conditions, offer portraits of individual sacrifices to gain an education, and document the celebrations of their educational achievements at the end of the school year.

This exhibit presents examples of this determination and perseverance in documents and photographs from the Rockefeller Family Archives and the records of the General Education Board.

Of related interest:

The General Education Board, Black Teachers and Civil Rights
by Adam Fairclough
University of East Anglia, Spring 2002 Newsletter

The Rockefeller Programs for the Disadvantaged and Federal Educational Programs
by John Groutt, Fall 2002 Research Reports

The Presidency of Charles S. Johnson at Fisk University as a Model for Collaboration between Philanthropy and Black Higher Education, 1946-1956
by Marybeth Gasman, Spring 1999 Research Reports

A Survey of Sources at the Rockefeller Archive Center for the Study of African-American History and Race Relations

A Bibliography of scholarship at the Rockefeller Archive Center (see African-Americans, Education, Race Relations)
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