What if one of the earliest American foundation archives were made public and open to scholarly examination? Well, that is exactly what has happened with the Ford Foundation’s archives and I couldn’t be happier. 12,000 reels of microfilm containing grant applications, papers, reports, and related documents will be available at the Rockefeller Archive Center. I understand that such an endeavor is not possible for all foundations, but making such information public, provides an opportunity for current grant makers and aspiring philanthropists to learn from the past. For example, W. McNeil Lowry’s correspondence with James Baldwin in 1959 reveals much about the Foundation’s support for culture and the development of the arts.
“It is based on my arbitrary assumption all novels are based on arbitrary assumptions that the two most profound realities the American has to deal with are color and sex. Stated that way, it sounds very bald, but I have worked very hard to ‘entertain,’ as ‘the reader’ and to tell the truth.”
Baldwin, in the midst of completing a novel titled “Another Country,” shared a progressive and critical view of America at the time, yet the Foundation supported his work. I wonder how many artists today can say they are eligible for unconditional funding regardless of the subject of their work?