- Assets: $1,234,292 (2009)
- Grants Received: $3,611,954 (2009)
- Grants Awarded: $2,182,626 (2009)
Phelps Stokes (PS) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which was established in 1911 with an $800,000 endowment from Caroline Phelps Stokes (1854-1909), a philanthropist who was particularly concerned with the educational needs of the poor. Known as the Phelps-Stokes Fund until 2008, PS promotes the use of education to “build bridges of intercultural, interracial, and international understanding.” Its guiding motto is “Education for Human Development.”
In its early years the Fund took a leadership role in the American Colonization Society, whose “Back to Africa” movement sought to resettle former slaves and their descendants to the African country of Liberia. Most notably, Phelps Stokes established Liberia’s first and largest vocational/technical training school, the Booker T. Washington Institute, in 1929. PS has maintained a presence in Liberia to this day, serving in an advisory capacity on educational matters, implementing educational projects, developing curricula and training teachers at Cuttington College (located in Suakoko), and evaluating the merit of proposals for private-sector projects.
Professing a “commitment to [the] service of disadvantaged peoples,” PS devotes “particular attention to the needs of people of color and Indians of the Americas”—whom the Fund regards as victims of an inherently racist social structure. Another top priority is “to address the educational needs of the urban and rural poor of Africa, the African Diaspora, and the United States.”
Phelps Stokes today administers the following major programs:
1) Liberian Education Trust (LET): Based in a nation with a 70-percent illiteracy rate, this grant-making initiative aims to build and refurbish 50 schools, train 500 teachers, award 5,000 scholarships to female students, recruit women to enter teacher-training colleges, and enroll women in literacy programs.
2) Learn For Liberia: This USAID-funded project promotes the training of Liberian girls and women in the field of radio-program production.
3) International Exchange Programs (IEP): Administering the U.S. State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program and other short-term exchange programs, IEP encourages “intercultural understanding and enhanced international relations between U.S. citizens and citizens from other nations through substantive face-to-face interaction, and promote[s] opportunities for representatives from marginalized communities to … take on leadership roles in the global community.”
4) Smart Teachers as Role Models: This program was developed “to recruit, train, certify, and secure teaching positions for African-American men,” in part “to address the shortage” of black male instructors in K-8 schools.
5) Ralph Bunche Societies (RBS): Named in honor of the first black winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, RBS features “extracurricular, undergraduate, student-led associations” dedicated to helping “minority students” develop into “global citizens” who exhibit “leadership” qualities and engage in “community activism.” As of mid-2011, three schools—Winston-Salem State University, the University of Maryland-College Park, and the University of Virginia—were participants in the RBS program.
6) Programs for Africa and Freedom Endowment: This initiative seeks to “identif[y] underserved Africans and their communities across sectors and cultures, develo[p] their institutions and leadership potential and understanding of sustainable development, connec[t] them to the web-based economy, and mobiliz[e] and suppor[t] them as a network.”
7) PS's Programs for Latin America and the Caribbean strive to facilitate the “economic empowerment of marginalized ethnic and racial minorities through education and leadership development.”
8) The National Homecomers Academy works to secure psychological, financial, legal, and social services for formerly incarcerated blacks and Native Americans as well as “at-risk” young people in the United States.
PS president Badi Foster formerly served as a member of the Dellums Commission, whose purpose is to analyze the “negative impact”—in the form of rising high-school dropout rates and incarceration rates—that various public policies have had “upon young men from communities of color.” Such policies include “abandonment of rehabilitation programs for drug users, diverting youth offenders to adult criminal systems, and imposing zero-tolerance [regulations] to exclude youth with problems from public schools.”
The chairman of PS's board of trustees is Robert Henderson, who also serves as secretary-general of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States (NSAB)—an organization whose chief message is that “the day has come for humanity’s unification into one global society” arranged as a “world federation of nations.” Founded on “principles of collective security,” NSAB's proposed utopia would be governed by “a world legislature with genuine representation and authority, an international court having final jurisdiction in all disputes between nations, and an international executive empowered to carry out the decisions of these legislative and judicial bodies.”
Another key PS board-of-trustees member is Gail Christopher, who also directs the Health Policy Institute (HPI) of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (JCPES). According to HPI: “African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities experience poorer health relative to national averages from birth to death—in the form of higher infant mortality, higher rates of disease and disability, and shortened life expectancy.” Many such “health inequities,” says HPI, are due to “inadequate access to health care and inequitable treatment in health care systems.” This perspective reflects JCPES's generalized view—shared by Christopher—that American society is rife with all manner of injustice against nonwhites.
An honorary member of PS's board of trustees is Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa.
A noteworthy former official of PS is Gerald LeMelle, who served as the Fund's director of African Affairs in the early 1990s before going on to spend 12 years as an executive with Amnesty International USA. In 2007 LeMelle became executive director of Africa Action, which contends that “racism has been and is a major determinant of U.S. policies toward Africa, Africans and U.S. citizens of African descent.”
In 1999, PS honored Cora Weiss, longtime communist and Institute for Policy Studies board member, for the Africa-related work she had done in the 1950s and 1960s.
For additional information on Phelps Stokes, click here.
(Information on grantees and monetary amounts courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)