Ford Foundation

Ford Foundation


* Assets: $13,830,304,990 (2017)
* Grants Received: $0 (2017)
* Grants Awarded: $556,032,905 (2017)

The Ford Foundation was chartered on January 15, 1936 with an initial gift of $25,000 from Edsel Ford, the only son of the industrialist/auto magnate Henry Ford, “to receive and administer funds for scientific, educational and charitable purposes, all for the public welfare.” The sole purpose of the Foundation was to dodge the IRS’s steep inheritance tax on the Ford Motor Company’s stock. With that aim, 95% of all company stock was placed under the charge of the Foundation. Although Edsel Ford initially envisioned small-scale philanthropic goals, the massive endowment of company equity made the Ford Foundation the largest and most influential charitable organization in the United States.

During its early years, the Ford Foundation operated in Michigan under the direction of Ford family members. Its founding charter stated that resources should be used “for scientific, educational and charitable purposes, all for the public welfare.” Thus the Foundation made grants to many kinds of organizations.

After the deaths of Edsel Ford in 1943 and his father (Henry Ford) four years later, Henry Ford II (Edsel’s son and Henry’s grandson) assumed leadership of the Foundation’s board of trustees. Over the next 33 years, Henry Ford II would serve the Foundation variously as president, chairman, and board of trustees member. Upon taking the helm of the trustees’ board, Mr. Ford promptly appointed the Gaither Study Committee, headed by California attorney H. Rowan Gaither, to draft a long-term plan for the institution’s future. In its final report (published in 1950), the Committee recommended that the Ford Foundation should focus its philanthropy on groups and causes that:

  • “promise significant contributions to world peace and the establishment of a world order of law and justice”;
  • “secure greater allegiance to the basic principles of freedom and democracy in the solution of the insistent problems of an ever-changing society”;
  • “advance the economic well-being of people everywhere and improve economic institutions for the better realization of democratic goals”;
  • “strengthen, expand and improve educational facilities and methods to enable individuals to realize more fully their intellectual, civic and spiritual potential; to promote greater equality of educational opportunity; and to conserve and increase knowledge and enrich our culture”; and
  • “increase knowledge of factors that influence or determine human conduct, and extend such knowledge for the maximum benefit of individuals and society.”

Just as its influence was increasing rapidly, the Ford Foundation became unmoored from the conservative views of the Ford family. In 1951, it began to receive millions of dollars in dividends from the massive endowment of stock that had been bequeathed to it by Henry and Edsel Ford, almost overnight transforming the Foundation into the country’s largest and most influential philanthropy. To oversee its newly lavish budget and move beyond its regional role, the Foundation turned to Paul Hoffman, a corporate executive and a liberal Republican.[1]

Hoffman was appointed as the Foundation’s president in 1951 and immediately launched its political realignment with a symbolic change of location, moving its headquarters from the Ford Company’s base in Dearborn, Michigan, to a location near his home in Pasadena, California, as well as to New York City.

These geographic changes heralded a shift in the nature and political direction of the Foundation’s charitable giving — changes which would reach new heights in 1966, when McGeorge Bundy began his 13-year stint as the Ford Foundation’s president. A liberal Republican and onetime Cold Warrior who had served as a national security advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, Bundy hailed from the coterie of foreign policy advisors and intellectuals—ironically dubbed “the best and the brightest” by journalist David Halberstam—who had initially advocated American intervention in Vietnam but who came to regret their support for the war and migrated to the left politically.[2]

Under Bundy, the Ford Foundation launched a new style of politicized giving and became a radical force in American life.

Some of Bundy’s largesse was parochial—in particular a grant of $131,000 to eight members of Robert Kennedy’ s staff in 1969 to help them overcome their grief after Sirhan Sirhan had gunned down their boss. Those grants came under the rubric of “Broadening opportunities for young men and women who might otherwise be unable to develop their abilities.”

The politicized grants continued after that, as the Ford Foundation, particularly during the Nixon years, came to see itself as a government-in-exile, an engine for social transformation. Bundy transformed the Foundation into a leading sponsor of left-wing causes such as the expansion of the welfare state, nuclear disarmament, environmental advocacy, and the creation of “civil rights” interest groups that emphasized ethnic identity and ethnic power, or “multiculturalism,” over integration and assimilation into the American culture. Ford gave as much as $300 million per year throughout the 1960s to support such causes.[3]

Ford’s sponsorship of these radical causes frequently proved destructive to those whom it was intended to help. In 1967, for instance, on the advice of academic radicals in New York, Bundy aligned his Foundation with members of the Brooklyn Black Power movement to establish a community-run set of schools in the borough’s predominantly black Ocean Hill-Brownsville section. Between 1967 and 1968, Ford gave more than $900,000 to fund schools as part of these so-called “community control experiments” in New York City.[4]

In theory, the Ford-funded project was supposed to empower minority communities and improve inner-city education by giving minority parents full control over their school districts. In practice, it was a disaster. The mostly-black school board precipitated a bitter and drawn-out fight with the city’s teacher’s union when the board fired the mostly white teachers as part of the project and the union came to their defense. At the same time, many of the teachers who had been appointed as part of the program were not remotely qualified for the job. Often the Ford-backed schools were staffed with anti-white militants and anti-Semites who fueled racial tensions in New York.[5] A poem by one of the teachers appointed through the Ocean Hill-Brownsville program allegedly read: “Hey Jewboy, with the yarmulke on your head/You paleface Jewboy, I wish you were dead.”[6] (Many of the white teachers in the school district and the New York teachers’ union were Jewish.) Still other teachers were white graduate students with no teaching experience who were drawn to the project for political reasons. As a result, the quality of education at participating schools deteriorated markedly. When the project ended after three years, minority students at Ocean Hill-Brownsville schools actually performed worse on reading tests than they had performed before the project began.

Ford again bankrolled the Black Power movement when it steered grants to the Cleveland chapter of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE), to support its voter-registration drive among blacks. Indeed, Ford funds paid for black youths to attend classes at CORE’s headquarters. Ostensibly about black history and heritage, these classes actually stoked racial division by teaching what one black councilman described as “race hatred.”[7] Most notoriously, in 1967, Ford grants to CORE helped tip the balance in Cleveland’s mayoral race to elect Democrat Carl Stokes—a politician linked with the radical Black Power movement—as the city’s first black mayor. In what many observers saw as a clearly partisan effort, Ford gave CORE a grant of $175,000, of which $30,000 went toward voter-registration efforts aimed exclusively at black voters. Buoyed by the registration drive, Stokes was able to prevail in a tightly contested race.[8] These registration drives were the seeds that led to the creation of organizations involved in similar efforts nationally, such as the radical group ACORN, which eventually came under scrutiny for massive election fraud in behalf of Democrats in more than a dozen states.

Ford’s “march to the Left” would ultimately provoke a bitter falling out between, on the one hand, the Foundation’s staff and trustees, and on the other, Edsel Ford’s son Henry Ford II, the last member of the Ford family to serve on the Foundation’s board. In 1976 a disillusioned Henry Ford II terminated his 34-tenure with a protest against the leftward course his family’s Foundation had pursued. In a stinging letter of resignation, Mr. Ford excoriated the trustees for using the Foundation’s funds to support left-wing causes while abandoning the commitment to free enterprise that had made possible the profits from which the Foundation was created. “The Foundation exists and thrives on the fruits of our economic system,” he said. “The dividends of competitive enterprise make it all possible. A significant portion of the abundance created by U.S. business enables the foundation and like institutions to carry on their work. In effect, the foundation is a creature of capitalism – a statement that, I’m sure, would be shocking to many people in the field of philanthropy. It is hard to discern recognition of this fact in anything the foundation does. It is even more difficult to find an understanding of this in many of the institutions, particularly the universities, that are the recipients of the foundation’s grant programs.”[9]  Mr. Ford also observed “that the system that makes the foundation possible very probably is worth preserving.”[10]

Not only did Ford Foundation’s executives not heed Henry Ford II’s warning that its social investments were undermining the very system that underwrote its philanthropy, but they moved aggressively to create a network of progressive groups who would use their non-profit tax status to promote radical agendas.

Under McGeorge Bundy’s leadership, the Ford Foundation made it a priority to support what it considered “civil rights” causes, but which in fact were politically left-wing agendas within the civil rights movement. Because they were often politically partisan within the narrow definition laid down by the IRS guidelines governing its tax exemption, pursuing these agendas required a combination of audacity and finesse on the part of the Foundation’s more politically-minded staff members. In particular, they had to convince moderate members of the board that the Foundation should be using its funds to bankroll groups and agendas which the IRS might regard as inappropriate beneficiaries for a charitable organization.

That task fell to Sanford Jaffe, the director of the Ford Foundation’s Government and Law Program from 1968-83. Prior to his appointment, Jaffe had served as executive director of the “Select Commission on Civil Disorder,” established in 1968 by New Jersey’s governor, Democrat Richard Hughes. Publishing a study that examined the underlying causes of the violent riots that had erupted in the predominantly black inner-city section of Newark in the summer of 1967, this Commission made policy recommendations for dealing with the problems facing inner-city communities. Like the “President’s Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders” initiated by President Lyndon Johnson, the New Jersey commission concluded that white racism and systemic inequities were the primary causes of the Newark riots. As Jaffe later put it, the riots had been sparked by “the inattention to the needs and aspirations of the black community, and the absence of opportunities available across the board.”

The Commission’s report, blaming the riots on poverty and racism, reflected a rapidly forming consensus on the left. Its prescriptions were of a similar cast, proposing vast increases in government welfare programs as a “solution” to the “root causes” of the violence — in particular lack of income. That both the riots and the poverty might have been the result of disintegrating family and community structures in the inner city, as warned by the Moynihan Report, a groundbreaking 1965 study of the African American family, was not part of the new political calculus.

The Commission also recommended a government takeover of inner-city schools, to improve the woeful state of education for Newark’s black youth. In response to the Commission’s findings, Governor Hughes proposed that New Jersey absorb 100% of the welfare costs from the state’s counties and municipalities while at the same time pumping massive infusions of aid into cities like Newark.[11] Republicans in the state legislature would eventually cut the figure down to a still-substantial 50% in the final version of the aid package, but the governor’s decision to implement the Commission’s findings began a cycle of fiscal recklessness that put New Jersey in desperate economic straits.

The challenge faced by Jaffe and the other progressives at the Ford Foundation was to promote agendas favored by liberals and Democrats while camouflaging its political nature, so as to conform to the legal requirements of a tax-exempt organization. Aware that this was uncharted territory and legally problematic, Jaffe wondered how he might insulate the Foundation from “criticism both from some people on the Ford board and a lot of people from the outside?”[12] The strategy he devised was to form a Public Interest Law Advisory Committee. Consisting of four ex-presidents of the American Bar Association, this Committee would assess the Foundation’s grants and lend the stamp of non-partisan prestige to an increasingly political grant-making strategy. When the Foundation’s grants then came under attack for their political nature, Jaffe could tell the Foundation’s board, “Look, I got the advice of these four people.”[13]

The strategy was so successful, that it initially helped diffuse opposition even from critics on the board like Henry Ford II. In order to win Ford’s approval, Jaffe made William Gossett, Ford’s general counsel, one of the members of his Advisory Committee. As Jaffe would later recall, “That became a key element to say to Henry Ford if he had a problem, ‘Well, Bill Gossett, your lawyer, thinks that this is a worthwhile enterprise, he’s joining us in looking at it.”

Jaffe’s approach cleared the way for the Ford Foundation to fund the creation of left-wing public interest law firms when otherwise the Foundation’s board might have been reluctant to endorse such nakedly partisan grants. As further insurance, Jaffe made sure that every firm would have a “litigation committee” comprising the kind of white-shoe lawyers that served on Ford’s board. That way, if the firms which Ford backed endorsed partisan liberal causes, Jaffe could claim that it was all approved at the highest levels: “We’d say, ‘Now, wait a minute, they have a distinguished board and besides that they have a litigation committee and they cannot file a lawsuit unless the litigation’s committee’s approved it.’ Now look who’s on the litigation committee. Arthur Goldberg, you know, was a former Supreme Court justice, this person and that person are all senior partners at law firms.”[14] As one critic notes, “The program’s officers did all they could to give this potentially explosive program a smooth, establishment veneer.”[15]

Internal critics may have been appeased by Jaffe’s strategy—temporarily, in the case of Henry Ford II—but there also remained concerns that the Foundation’s support for organizations with a political agenda could invite unwanted attention from the federal government. Indeed, the Foundation’s non-profit tax status—the original reason for its creation—could be jeopardized by funding groups allied with progressive movements and causes. According to the relevant provision of the IRS tax code, known as 501(c)(3), non-profits eligible for tax-deductibility must be dedicated to “the general welfare” and not partisan causes, and could not “attempt to influence legislation.” As Ford’s president, McGeorge Bundy, wondered: “What if somebody hassles us about the charitable nature of this?”[16] But the Foundation found an important loophole in the tax code: Public-interest law firms did not directly fall under the requirement prohibiting 501(c)(3) political advocacy, thus their funding by Ford could not technically be construed as politically motivated. It was a discovery that would leave long-lasting effects on American politics and institutions.

Despite its authorization as a tax-exempt entity intended to promote the general (non-partisan) welfare, the Ford Foundation would go on to create an army of progressive “public-interest” law firms, designed to advance the agendas of the Left. In time, these groups would become a Shadow Party for the political Left, shaping policy and politics in America while disenfranchising the very groups they were created to represent. Among the most influential of these tax-exempt advocacy groups were the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (now called LatinoJustice PRLDF). Backed by the Ford Foundation, these groups would fundamentally transform the public debate about immigration, both legal and illegal, and ultimately shape policy, reflecting agendas that originated on the political fringe and, in the absence of Ford funds, would probably have remained there.

Ford Creates the Open-Borders Lobby

The concept of “open borders” has long been an leading agenda item for the political and ideological Left. Since the 1960s, a vast network — including hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of grassroots activists, backed by hundreds of millions of dollars from leftwing foundations — has waged a sustained campaign to open America’s borders to a mass migration from the Third World. Though these groups talk in terms of “human rights,” the rights they demand are not the restrictions on government enshrined in the American Bill of Rights, but the claims on society for “equity” and “welfare” and special treatment for designated groups that are the familiar menu of the Left and would, if enacted, amount to a revolution in America’s existing social order. Which is precisely their intent.

The “open borders” movement emerged from the radicalism of the 1960s and matured in the fight over amnesty for illegal aliens in the 1980s. It gained a certain mainstream status in the 1990s as the “globalization” and “multilateralism” fads of the decade encouraged talk of a “world without borders” and the decline (even the demise) of the nation-state. At the center of the movement was the Ford Foundation – the largest tax-exempt foundation in the world, and one increasingly guided by the political Left.

In the radical perspective, America is an oppressor nation, which significantly depreciates any value that American citizenship might have and justifies a less-than-solicitous view towards the preservation of American culture and America’s borders. The Ford Foundation has focused on immigrants and refugees as a priority since the 1950s. But it was in the late Sixties that its effort to create a radical open-borders movement shifted into overdrive.

One of the Foundation’s most significant disbursements was its 1968 “seed grant” to create MALDEF, which would eventually grow into the most influential Hispanic advocacy organization in the United States.

MALDEF was the brainchild of attorney Peter Tijerina, an official with the San Antonio chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). LULAC was a middle-class organization of Hispanic professionals and businessman interested in civil rights within the context of American society. Membership was limited to American citizens, and English was its official language, though LULAC’s code encouraged the retention of Spanish as one of “the two most essential languages.” The LULAC code also stated: “Respect your citizenship; honor your country, maintain its traditions in the minds of your children; incorporate yourself in the culture and civilization.”

Looking to move in a more radical direction, Tijerina sent a member of LULAC to the Chicago convention of the NAACP‘s Legal Defense Fund (NAACP-LDF) in 1966. Jack Greenberg, head of the NAACP-LDF, set up a meeting for Tijerina with the Ford Foundation. Not long after that — in February, 1968 — Tijerina announced that he was asking Ford for $1 million. Ford responded to the request by giving him more than twice that amount — $2.2 million over a five-year period — to fund the nascent MALDEF as an organization that could help Mexican Americans obtain whatever civil-rights legal services they might need.

Tijerina became executive director of MALDEF, headquartered in San Antonio. Recent law-school graduates and VISTA volunteers joined the staff, and a small office was opened in Los Angeles. A network of corresponding attorneys filed suits in MALDEF’s name (usually without compensation) and had grown to number approximately 150 by the middle of 1969. Cases across the spectrum, from job discrimination to police brutality, school desegregation to voting rights, were channeled to MALDEF. The organization worked to protect dissidents from legal action, loss of jobs, or expulsion from school. The Los Angeles office gave legal advice to hundreds of Chicanos arrested during anti-war marches. MALDEF also worked on draft counseling and on placing Hispanics on local draft boards. By 1973, many Texas cities had draft boards that were half Hispanic.

Flexing its monetary muscle, the Ford Foundation pressured MALDEF to move out of San Antonio and to a city like Washington, so it could function as a national force. In 1970, MALDEF made San Francisco its headquarters, and it opened a Washington office three years later. By that time, MALDEF had already acquired a militant image and had begun advocating bilingual education as a “right” due the Hispanic community.

Between 1970 and 2005, Ford gave more than $25 million to MALDEF; nearly half of that amount ($11,285,000) was donated between 2000 and 2004. Virtually all of MALDEF’s funding in its first three decades came from the Ford Foundation, which shaped the organization’s leadership and its agendas. Far from being the grassroots organization it pretends to be, MALDEF is more like a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford.

As noted above, the Ford Foundation also played a leading role in the creation and development of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). NCLR’s roots can be traced back to the early 1960s, when a group of young Mexican Americans in Washington, DC decided to form a coordinating body to bring existing Hispanic groups—which were generally small and isolated—together into a single united front, which they called the National Organization for Mexican American Services (NOMAS). Soon thereafter, NOMAS presented a funding proposal to the Ford Foundation, which in turn issued a large grant to finance a major, first-of-its-kind UCLA study of Mexican Americans and the major issues that confronted them.

Before long, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights began to hold a series of influential hearings on the status of Mexican Americans and, later, of other Latino groups residing in the United States. In addition, the Ford Foundation initiated a second (though less academic) investigation of the same subject. To carry out that study, Ford hired three Mexican Americans—Dr. Julian Samora (a community activist who helped pioneer the field of Latino Studies; Dr. Ernesto Galarza (a professor who was widely considered “the dean of Chicano activism”); and Herman Gallegos (a San Francisco-based community organizer who had previously worked with his mentor, Saul Alinsky, to establish a Mexican-American political action group). These three men traveled throughout the Southwest to meet with other Hispanic activists to discuss policies and programs that could be developed to help Mexican Americans. These consultations resulted in the publication of two reports showing that Mexican Americans “faced numerous obstacles, especially with respect to poverty”; needed “more local, grassroots programmatic and advocacy organizations”; and could benefit from a sustained “national advocacy” campaign on their behalf.

To address these issues, Galarza, Samora, and Gallegos collaborated to co-found the Southwest Council of La Raza (SWCLR)—NCLR’s predecessor—in Phoenix, Arizona in February 1968. SWCLR’s major funding was provided by the Ford Foundation, the National Council of Churches, and the United Auto Workers union. Gallegos became SWCLR’s first executive director, while Galarza served as a consultant to the nascent organization. In the summer of 1968, SWCLR began to help establish and support barrio (community) groups committed to “promoting empowerment, voter registration, leadership development, and other forms of advocacy.”

At the end of 1972, SWCLR became a national organization and changed its name to the National Council of La Raza (NCLR, often simply called “La Raza”) “to reflect its commitment to represent and serve all Mexican Americans in all parts of the country.” The following year, the group moved its headquarters from Phoenix to Washington, DC. Thanks in large measure to continued support from the Ford Foudation — totaling approximately $40 million in grants over the next four decades  — NCLR would grow into a behemoth of the left-wing “civil rights” and “social justice” establishment.

The success of Ford’s radical intervention into the politics of Mexican-Americans was paralleled by its intervention in the politics of yet another Latino community: The Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF, now known as LatinoJustice PRLDF) was founded in 1972 with a Ford seed grant. This New York City-based organization was created with the stated aim of providing legal support for Puerto Ricans and the wider Hispanic community. But over the ensuing three decades, PRLDEF increasingly pushed the same radical agendas as its sister Ford-funded organizations — MALDEF and La Raza — on issues ranging from bilingual education, to racial quotas in hiring, to the racial gerrymandering of voting districts, to amnesty for illegal immigrants. PRLDEF regularly represented plaintiffs in lawsuits against the New York City police and sanitation departments. When Hispanics performed worse on hiring exams than their white counterparts and were denied jobs as a result, for instance, PRDLEF sued the departments for hiring discrimination and alleged that the exams themselves were replete with “cultural bias.”

Like MADLEF and La Raza, PRLDEF’s agenda would have a transformative effect on American policy and institutions, most prominently through its efforts to nurture a cadre of left-wing Latino lawyers who could influence public policy and opinion. Of these, the most significant is Justice Sonia Sotamayor, an alumnus of PRLDEF’s board, and the first Puerto Rican American to be elevated to the Supreme Court. Sotomayor’s place on the Supreme Court is in no small part a Ford Foundation achievement. As author Linda Chavez notes, “[T]he Ford Foundation virtually created the infrastructure of the contemporary Hispanic policy movement.” Henry Santiestevan, a former head of La Raza, has also conceded that “without the Ford Foundation’s commitment … the Chicano movement would have withered away in many areas.”

Yet another open-borders group that has been heavily funded by the Ford Foundation is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In 1999, for instance, Ford gave the ACLU the largest grant it had ever received—$7 million. “The ACLU has had no better partner and friend than the Ford Foundation,” said Ira Glasser, executive director of the national ACLU at the time. “It is fitting that the largest single gift to this effort, and in fact the largest gift ever to the ACLU, should come from Ford.”

Ford Creates the Multiculturalism Movement

The multicultural idea first invaded American politics through the university, when a succession of Ford Foundation grants in the late 1960s and 1970s helped establish the politicized fields of Black Studies and Women’s Studies, with others to follow. These pseudo-disciplines celebrated ethnic, racial, and gender separatism, fostering group identities over a core American identity. Their common theme was the race-gender-class oppression of designated groups by American capitalism.

The very first Black Studies program, created in 1967 at San Francisco State College as a concession to a student strike organized by radicals that shut down the school, set the pattern for other multicultural curricula that followed. The program dispensed with traditional academic subjects like science and math, in favor of so-called “black science” and “black math” that emphasized racial consciousness and racial agendas. A second Black Studies program was created at Cornell University in 1969 when the school bowed to shotgun-wielding black student radicals who occupied the Administration building and demanded the formation of a Black Studies Department and the right to appoint their own professors. The demands were mostly granted.

Following this template, Women’s Studies programs were created behind the principle that gender differences were not biologically based but “socially constructed” as part of a system of race, gender and class hierarchies designed to oppress racial minorities, women and transgendered individuals, and low-to-moderate-income workers. At their core, each division of the new multicultural curricula constituted an assault on the idea of a common national identity, and of America as a society based on principles of equality and individual rights.

Franklin Thomas, who served as president of the Ford Foundation from 1979-96, was instrumental in promoting multiculturalist agendas through strategic grantmaking. In a September 12, 1990 press release, Thomas explained Ford’s intention to “broaden cultural and intellectual diversity in American higher education.” The program’s goal was “to ensure that college curricula and teaching keep pace with the rapid demographic and cultural changes under way in American society.” Added Thomas: “Most of us have little understanding of the diverse culture, attitudes, and experiences that make up our own societies. Unfortunately, this ignorance about other cultures breeds insensitivity and intolerance in young and old alike.” He sealed his theory with a strong bottom line: “To reach the roots of intolerance and improve campus life, we must make the teaching of non-Western cultures a basic element of undergraduate education.”

Toward that end, the Ford Foundation in 1990 “invited” 200 colleges to compete for grants of $100,000. There was a major stipulation, however: Any group or institution that received any money from the Foundation would be obliged to adhere to Ford’s affirmative action guidelines. To comply with those guidelines, Ford required every grant application to include a “diversity table” detailing the number of non-whites and women who were employed or served by the organization or school seeking assistance. Notably, Ford did not consider Asian Americans to be a minority group eligible for hiring preferences.

To promote its 1990 “Race Relations and Cultural Diversity Initiative,” Ford hired a host of leftists: Duke University president H. Keith Brodie; University of Pennsylvania president F. Sheldon Hackney; Stanford University president Donald Kennedy; University of Wisconsin/Madison chancellor Donna Shalala; College Board president Donald Stewart; Vasser College president Frances D. Fergusson (who was a member of Ford’s board of directors); City College of New York president Bernard W. Harleston; Princeton University president Harold T. Shapiro; and Blandina Cardenas Ramirez, the American Council on Education’s director of minority concerns.

Brodie, Shalala, Fergusson, and Kennedy had all fought the political-correctness wars on their own campuses, instituting “speech codes,” deriding Western Civilization courses, and creating race-based admissions and hiring programs. According to Edgar Beckham, the officer in charge of the Ford Foundation’s Education & Culture Program, this group “worked with the president of the Foundation to develop the conceptual framework” of the aforementioned “Race Relations and Cultural Diversity Initiative.” A February 8, 1990 “Dear Colleague” letter, penned on behalf of Ford by the academic advisers named above (Brodie, Hackney, et al.) plus some unnamed “additional advisers,” read as follows:

“Reports of racial and religious intolerance and sexual harassment are rising. Partly in reaction to this, some have questioned the free speech and academic freedom essential to the vitality of an academic community…. Higher education’s role in meeting this challenge is to embrace the rich diversity of American life in a manner that enhances the educational experiences of all students.

“Our commitment to diversity requires colleges and universities to complete this transition by increasing substantially the numbers of people from underrepresented groups in our student bodies, faculties, and administrative offices. This is not only a challenge to admissions offices and faculty recruiters. It is crucial that diversity be sustained through completed student degrees and successful faculty and administrative careers. Increased numerical diversity alone will not end these tensions.

“Reaping the full dividends of diversity may require an institution to rethink certain aspects of the curriculum and other traditional commitments of the academic community. Diversity also brings changes outside the classroom affecting residential life, campus services, cultural events, and student activities….

“This recognition of differences has framed affirmative action efforts in admitting students, hiring faculty and awarding financial aid….”

Ford realized that foundations, with their enormous financial clout and their appearance of being above politics, were the institutions best positioned to change the campus climate. Stripped of all the elegant rationales and academic persiflage, it was essentially a matter of using lucrative grants to bribe administrators, with scores of millions of dollars, into making the desired changes.

In late September 1992, Ford sponsored a conference titled “Cultural Diversity Enhancement” at the Pasadena Doubletree Hotel in California. It was attended by dozens of scholars from campuses all over the United States. The subject was how to turn American higher education inside-out.

In an afternoon session entitled “Restructuring the University,” several spokespersons summarized the thinking of the workshops that had taken place earlier that morning. Robert Steele, a Professor of Psychology at Wesleyan University, noted that his group was aware that coercion would be required to change the university: “People will not be quietly assimilated to multiculturalism by truth through dialogue.” He implied that they would have to be bought off as well as brought along: “You get research assistants, you give mentoring.” In other words, using the largesse of Ford and other philanthropic institutions, advocates of multiculturalism could convince the hesitant to join up by paying for research assistants. And, said Steele, these assistants—mentors of multiculturalism—should be women or nonwhite minorities: “We will have changed the university when women and people of color can see themselves running the place.”

Steele was followed by Jonathan Lee, a Philosophy Professor at Colorado College, who began by reporting that the workshop he represented had wondered if “consensus was an appropriate goal.” That is, should advocates of multiculturalism act as a popular front or a vanguard? One of Lee’s prescriptions for success was to “divorce courses from instructors”—that is, conceive and institute courses without regard to those who would be doing the teaching. Continuing in this vein, Lee reported that his group had considered the question, “Is the multicultural approach an adaptation or a revolutionary transformation?” They had come down on the side of the more radical position: “At stake in multiculturalism is a direct challenge to privatized teaching, to privatized work and to privatized life.” Even science, the one area theretofore immune to this radical transformation, would have to change, according to Lee: “Instead of teaching science as a doctrine divorced from its social context, we could teach science from a historical, economic perspective.”

The final speaker was Eve Grossman, a Princeton dean, who emphasized: “If we want to change the world, we have to change the students.”

Ford’s ramrod in multiculturalism was its then-vice president, Susan Berresford. According to administrators who had previously dealt with Ford, Berresford often called applicants on the carpet if women and minorities were underrepresented among their staffers, to bully them into conformity. At the same time, she denied that she was trying to enforce a “quota system.” Rather, she persisted in claiming that the primary criterion to receive Ford money was “talent.”

Notwithstanding Berresford’s claims, Ford exhibited an unmistakable obsession with the percentages of minorities and women at the institutions with which it did business. Specifically, it viewed affirmative action as a necessary response to America’s allegedly inherent and ubiquitous racism. Consider, for example, Tulane University — one of the schools that qualified for Ford’s $100,000 “Cultural Diversity Grant”:

  • The goals of Tulane’s “Initiatives for Race and Gender Enrichment” were breathtaking in scope. According to the University’ s president, Eamon Kelly, their objective was to “change, over time, the character of our university, and to bring it to the next level of social and human progress.” Racism and sexism were “pervasive” in American society and “fundamentally present in all institutions,” Kelly lamented, adding that no one was immune because these vices were “subconscious or at least sub-surface.”
  • If the disease was a pandemic of a strain of racism and sexism resistant to such remedies as free inquiry and spirited open discussion, the cure, by Kelly’s reckoning, was systematic quota hiring, with the Tulane provost empowered to intervene when enough “people of color” were not hired. The quota hirelings were to be given reduced teaching loads, higher salaries, and extra stipends.
  • Ford’s front-persons pressured university departments to hold seminars on gender and racial scholarship, and to integrate materials on women and people of color into their courses. To lift Tulane to the next level of social and human progress, the school would also need tools of enforcement. Therefore, students were encouraged to reporton one another’s private thoughts and conversations as one way of providing the university “with tools to begin the process of removing racism and sexism from ourselves and our institution.” Similarly, department heads were ordered to report periodically on racist and sexist attitudes among their colleagues and students. The initiatives also provided for an “Enrichment Liaison Person” in each department to act as a commissar monitoring conformity. On all counts, the Tulane experiment gave a good sense as to what Ford’ s PC initiative would look like in widespread practice.

“The amount of money[$100,000] is nothing,” said renegade Tulane political science professor Paul Lewis. “It’s simply an excuse to do what they [Ford] wanted to do … what they would really like is one university to be a proving ground for their ideas.” “My gut feeling about this,” added Lewis, “is that [Eamon] Kelly has been sent down as a missionary from the Ford Foundation.” Indeed, Kelly was a Ford Foundation program officer in charge of social development from 1969-74. (From 1974-79 he headed the Foundation’s Program Related Investments.) Ronald Mason, Kelly’s senior vice-president at Tulane in charge of implementing the diversity initiative, was also a Ford transplant, as was the man Kelly installed as chancellor.

For Lewis, a veteran of the civil-rights movement, the Ford initiative at Tulane was “the worstassault on academic freedom since Senator Joe McCarthy’ s escapades in the 1950s.” In the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Lewis argued that “universities cannot operate where dissent is discouraged, where inquiry is under the thumb of orthodoxy and where professors and students are spied upon and reported.”

As a result of his agitation against Ford’s carpet-bagging at Tulane, Lewis found an ally in philosophy professor Eric Mack. Mack pointed out that the University’s multicultural “Initiatives” did little to remedy the fact that Tulane “offers almost no course in Islamic, African, Near Eastern, Indian, Chinese, or Japanese history, literature, fine arts, philosophy, or religion. Nor does the document display any interest in intellectual diversity.”

Throughout 1991 Lewis continued to mobilize opposition to Kelly’s plan. As a result, Tulane eventually dropped the declaration that diversity, rather than scholarship or teaching, was the university’s highest priority. In May 1992, Tulane’s board of administrators scrapped most of Kelly’s plan.

While the Tulane battle raged, Ford was proceeding with its grand strategy elsewhere. Boston College, for instance, announced plans for a course on “alterity” or “otherness.” Denison University announced efforts to extend its Minority and Women’s Studies requirement into its Freshman Studies Program. Haverford College announced plans to create or revise ten courses relating to prejudice and discrimination that would make up its new core requirement in social justice. The University of Rochester announced plans to expand its Freshman Ventures to include “the experience of oppressed groups and their resistance to oppression.”

The fact that all these announcements were made simultaneously, and in virtually identical, politically-correct boilerplate, was no coincidence. Each of the schools had received a grant under Ford’ s “Race Relations and Cultural Diversity Initiative.” Other schools that received grants from Ford included Bemidji State, Brandeis University, UCLA, University of Iowa, Millsaps College, Mount St. Mary’s College, the New School for Social Research, Notre Dame, Pitzer, the University of Redlands, Southwest Texas State, Virginia Commonwealth, and Wesleyan University.

The inclusion of Wesleyan, a prestigious liberal-arts school in Middletown, Connecticut, was of special interest. Ford’s Education and Culture Director Edgar Beckham was a graduate of Wesleyan. Beckham had also been a lecturer in the German Department before going into administration. As dean of students and student services at Wesleyan, Beckham championed politically correct (PC) programs. The kind of networking Ford could do was demonstrated by the fact that Beckham was able to deliver Wesleyan to Ford for its pilot program, and to secure $100,000 for his alma mater at the same time.

In 1990 Beckham told the New York Times that he was enthusiastic about the Ford job “because of the experience I’ve had on a single campus.” It was Beckham’s “strong view that if you want to get at the heart of culture, you have to engage the faculty and you have to affect the curriculum.”

As a result of this engagement with Ford’s PC dollars, Wesleyan boasted four organizations for “students of color’ and supported a chapter of the Society Organized Against Racism. A “students of color council” met regularly with Dean Janina Montero and other officers, according to Montero, “to go over the agenda.” One faculty member who opposed the new trend said that since the Ford grant, Wesleyan’s decision-makers had been pushing for race- and gender-based hiring and “front-loading a lot of stuff into orientation.” Freshmen were required to attend a “four- or five-day boot camp” which featured “multicultural and homosexual propaganda.” The Ford grant also paid for faculty to have one course-load reduction, which they were to use in the development of multicultural curricula.

Ford’s initiative at Wesleyan also got a boost from President William Chace, a former Donald Kennedy crony during his days helping to dislodge Stanford’s Western Civilization requirement. New vice-president Joanne Creighton took charge of affirmative action, targeting each department, with special emphasis on English and History.

Evergreen State, in Olympia, Washington, was founded as an “alternative” school in 1970. At Evergreen there was no classic breakdown of disciplines, only “team teaching” and “collaborative learning.” The racial breakdown of students and “faculty of color” was carefully monitored.

As it happened, Evergreen administrator Barbara Smith also headed the Washington Center for Undergraduate Education, which owed its existence in part to a grant from Ford. The Center was the largest statewide education project in the country. Participating schools included not only Evergreen, but the University of Washington and its two branch campuses, Seattle University (a private school), and 12 community colleges — for a grand total of 43 institutions. All of them got information from the Center, a clearing house for multiculturalism.

Barbara Smith wrote a grant proposal, sent it to Ford, and hit the jackpot. With Beckham’s enthusiastic support, Ford cut Evergreen a $718,400 grant for a “Cultural Pluralism Curriculum Infusion Project,” a “seven-step intervention” to promote cultural pluralism and “manifest the point of view in new and reshaped courses.” “Out of the blue, they [Ford] wanted to come and talk,” said Smith. Edgar Beckham and some Ford colleagues were soon winging their way to the Evergreen campus, where they took a hands-on approach. “There was one whole meeting where they coached us what to write,” said Smith. By the time they had collaborated on a proposal, the grant was a foregone conclusion.

“The program wouldn’t be in existence if it weren’t for grant money,” Smith confessed. “We had 90 people for 10 days in institutes. Seven faculty and administrators from each school.” Smith added that Ford had a “well-developed idea where diversity should go, since they have a long-term agenda.”

What was this this long-range plan? In addition to a sort of Johnny Appleseed approach to sowing multiculturalism wherever it found fertile ground, Ford concentrated on what Beckham called “institutional clusters.” The clusters, said Beckham, “will develop programs of institutional teams, leadership teams that will undergo an educational process themselves and then return to their campuses and influence the continuing institutional change.”

Besides the Washington Center, Ford channeled money to the Associate Colleges of the Midwest and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. To the latter, Ford gave$434,000 — to help it expand and streamline its Institute on Ethnic Diversity. Moreover, the Commission invited Western colleges to attend intensive seminars on how to make their core curricula more diverse. “Participating institutions,” the Foundation noted, “will be required to make an explicit public commitment, endorsed by the governing board, to work toward greater campus diversity.” The concept included addressing “goals, strategies and timelines for hiring minority faculty and staff, increasing the enrollment and retention of minority students, establishing faculty development programs, renewing the curriculum … and making appropriate changes in administrative policies and practices.”

Along with the clusters, Ford grants continued to flow to individual schools. For instance:

  • In Los Angeles, St. Mary’s College used a $100,000 Ford grant to hold faculty-student “development workshops led by experts on multicultural education and teaching.”
  • Northeastern Illinois used Ford money to hold a campus-wide “University Day” with a diversity theme and workshops for faculty.
  • Pitzer College used $100,000 in Ford funds to revise traditional courses to “incorporate the perspectives of different racial, ethnic and cultural groups.”
  • Queens College launched a “Departmental Diversity Initiative” that included “re-evaluation of each department’s educational philosophy and program….”
  • The University of Iowa used a Ford grant in “a required two-semester course.”
  • Notre Dame’s $91,640 Ford grant bankrolled two-week intensive workshops for faculty members in core curriculum.
  • De Pauw University chaplain Stuart Lord used Ford funds to holds classes in “deconstruction,” the “reversal of negative and pessimistic ideas that have been embedded in people’ s minds.” Under this initiative, professors sent students to the video room to watch PBS fare such as “Racism 101.” A multicultural tape featured Gary Harper, a Purdue graduate student arguing—unopposed—that “homosexuals have their own culture and face the same oppression” as other groups.
  • In 1991 De Pauw invited Edgar Beckham to give a convocation address, after which the Ford official asked if anything was being done in multiculturalism. Administrators knew that money was to be had and quickly submitted a proposal. Ford responded with a grant. The school used the funds to establish Ekabo House, an experiment in multicultural living.
  • $100,000 Ford grant enabled the University of Redlands to run a four-week workshop “focused on the introduction of cultural diversity into the curriculum.”
  • Vassar College used a $100,000 grant from Ford to set up teams of students and faculty to “develop recommendations for revision often traditional courses that serve as introductions to disciplines in the humanities and social sciences.”
  • Ford wrote a $326,700 check to the University of Pennsylvania for “a series of summer seminars in African-American cultural studies.”
  • A $300,000 Ford grant to UC Berkeley supported “faculty and student interdisciplinary research on the African diaspora.”
  • $180,125 Ford grant paid for a new doctoral program at Michigan State in comparative black history.

Under the Ford Plan, radical administrators, faculty, and foundations merged in a PC menage a trois, backed by Ford’s fathomless vault of dollars. Ford’s own literature, however, carefully downplayed this arrangement. “They don’t want to be too public about what they are doing,” said the Bradley Foundation’s Michael Joyce, “because they worry that if people with common sense understood what they are doing they would be rejected.”

The Ford Foundation has also given large sums to fund various projects, programs, and academic departments in universities across the United States. These include:

To view a list of additional noteworthy college and university grantees of the Ford Foundation, click here.

Ford Creates “Women’s Studies”

Women’s Studies (a.k.a. Feminist Studies) was born as an academic discipline in the mid-1970s. Such programs invariably echo the theme that women, by and large, are the oppressed victims of Western culture’s inequities—which are tied most closely to capitalism. The first Women’s Studies program was established at San Diego State University for the 1969-70 school year, and by 1970 there were approximately 100 Women’s Studies courses being offered at schools across the country. By 1971, more than 600 such courses were being taught, and by 1978 there were 301 full-fledged Women’s Studies programs in operation. That number more than doubled to 621 programs by 1990. Today, the figure exceeds 800.

In 1971, a group of feminists approached Ford Foundation president McGeorge Bundy with a request that the Foundation might involve itself in the feminist movement the way it had in the civil-rights movement — i.e., essentially creating it out of whole cloth. The result of those early discussions was a full-fledged women’s project to fund the small number of existing women’s-advocacy organizations, and also to create a whole new field within academia known as “Women’s Studies.” In 1972, Ford announced the first $1 million national fellowship program for “faculty and doctoral dissertation research on the role of women in society and Women’s Studies broadly construed.” Over the next 20 years, Ford and other foundations would funnelsome $36 million to Women’s Studies programs from coast to coast.

In the 1980s, under the direction of president Franklin Thomas, all Ford grants included gender as a consideration, and program officers were instructed to examine each and every proposal for its gender component. This moved the funding of Women’s Studies and other feminist enterprises from a women-specific grant category into all funding categories. By 1985, Ford had established the Women’s Program Forum, a consortium of grantmakers and Ford staffers tasked with keeping tabs on funding decisions being made worldwide vis-a-vis women’s issues.

The creation of the Campus Diversity Initiative in 1990 took Ford in the direction of curriculum change. The grants given from this category were directed to sex-specific academic programs and departments, in addition to other identified victim-class groups. Of course, sex-specific really meant Women’s Studies, since no Ford executive considered white male students to be in need of anything other than sensitivity training.

In 1999, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation received a four-year $250,000 endowment from the Ford Foundation to support Women’s Studies programs.

In 2001, Ford gave the University of Maryland a $50,000 grant to host a conference on the development of doctoral programs in Women’s Studies.

Also during the early 2000s, Rutgers University received $300,000 from Ford for support of women’s globalization human rights leadership; $100,000 for studying race and gender discrimination in major business publications; a $500,000 endowment for the university’s Institute for Women’s Leadership; $100,000 for Rutgers students involved with the U.N. Beijing Conference on Women; $320,000 for the Rutgers Center for the American Woman and Politics; and $346,000 for the Institute for Women’s Leadership to examine faculty’s role in initiating and supporting programs to advance diversity in higher education policy and practice.

Smith College received $259,100 in 2003 for archival preservation of the collected works of Gloria Steinem, and for an oral history project on feminism and related collection development. Smith also received $210,000 for Meridians, an interdisciplinary journal of scholarship and creative writing by and about women-of-color and Third World women.

Other Women’s Studies favorites of Ford in 2003 were those based at the University of Arizona, the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Minnesota, Wellesley, Radcliffe, and Harvard.

Combining Women’s Studies with other ethnic studies in an attempt to solidify their hold on the diversity angle, the Ford Foundation in 1995 gave the University of Maryland $250,000 for a three-year seminar examining “The Meanings and Representations of Black Women and Work,” which was co-led by the director of the Women’s Studies program and the director of the Afro-American Studies program. Moreover, Ford was instrumental in establishing Women’s Studies programs at historically Black universities, with Spelman and Medgar Evers leading the way.

The Ford Foundation has often expanded its vision through multi-year endowments. By creating a new program for a university and then funding it for the first three-to-five years, Ford can provide “guidance” in curriculum development and faculty training. For example, the Harvard Women’s Studies program was essentially created by Ford. To expand the influence of that program into other areas of the University, Ford in 1998 established a three-year, $500,000 endowment to support Women’s Studies in Religion at the Harvard Divinity School.

Ford created the vehicle for Women’s Studies to grow into other parts of the academy by its generosity to women’s research centers, which are more comprehensive than Women’s Studies programs. “Women’s research centers are essential because they’re interdisciplinary,” said Susan B. Carter, associate professor of economics at Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts. “We can’t understand the changes for women in the economy and the workplace without also understanding child-rearing, family patterns, psychological changes and historical forces.”

In 1972, Myra Strober became the first woman hired as an assistant professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, and she and a group of colleagues applied for and received a $25,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to look into establishing a women’s research center. This was followed by a $100,000 grant for a five-year startup; Stanford matched those funds, and in 1974 the Institute for Research on Women and Gender became the first university-sponsored think tank for U.S. women. As Strober later recounted, the Ford Foundation “not only gave us money, but told me how as an assistant professor with zero power I could go to the provost and convince him that the university had to make a permanent commitment to this, one of the first centers for research on women.”

Another outgrowth of the Ford Foundation’s funding was the Women’s Studies Area and International Studies Curriculum Integration Project (WSAIS), coordinated through the National Center for Research on Women (NCRW), which was lauded by feminists for spurring the growth of women’s studies and for emphasizing the importance of viewing all issues through the prism of gender. The NCRW described the WSAIS project as an effort to infuse gender concerns into international and area studies, and to internationalize the women’s studies curriculum. Ford was instrumental in taking women’s studies from the fringe and making it inescapable for faculty and students alike.

Ford was also a major donor to the National Women’s Studies Association housed at the University of Maryland—a membership organization for women’s studies programs directors, faculty, students and individual researchers. It used Ford monies to host an annual Women’s Studies conference and an e-mail network.

In 1993 Ford endowed the Ms. Foundation with $4.5 million to hand out to women’s research projects.

By 2004, there were more than 60 university-based women’s research centers in the U.S.

Ford’s philanthropy has also been used to promote the Foundation’s feminist agendas abroad. In 1997, for instance, the International Center for Research on Women received a $1 million endowment from Ford for a five-year program to launch Women’s Studies initiatives in other countries. In addition, the Foundation has invested millions of dollars to establish Women’s Studies in China, Israel, and several South American countries, thereby expanding the reach of liberal feminism and solidifying its grip on UN conferences that address women, children, health, and population issues. Thanks to the Ford Foundation, by 2003 there were 400 women’s organizations and 55 Women’s Studies programs in Brazil alone.

The Ford Foundation and Israel

Virtually from the moment Israel was created as an independent nation in 1948, the Ford Foundation gave money to a broad array of causes in the Jewish state and its vicinity. Through its Cairo office, for instance, Ford disbursed more than $35 million in grants to 272 Arab and Palestinian organizations during 2000-2001 period alone—plus 62 additional grants (totaling more than $1.4 million) to Arab and Palestinian individuals. From the 1950s through 2003, Ford’s Beirut and Cairo offices awarded over $193 million to more than 350 Middle East organizations, almost all of which were Arab, Islamic or Palestinian.

In 2001 Ford played a large part in funding — to the tune of at least $15 million — that year’s United Nations World Conference Against Racism (in Durban, South Africa), which degenerated into a circus of anti-Semitic and anti-American displays.

Thereafter, Ford gave funding to a number of the anti-Israel non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that had played key roles in the Durban Conference. In 2003, for instance, the Foundation established the Ford Israel Fund to award grants to those groups. Those monies were generally funneled through the New Israel Fund, which in turn forwarded them to the intended recipients. The grants fell into three categories: “advancing civil and human rights” in Israel and the Palestinian territories; “helping Arab citizens in Israel gain equality”; and “promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace.” The Ford Israel Fund was initially endowed with a $20 million grant that expired five years later, in 2008. At that point, Ford issued a new, five-year, $20 million commitment slated to expire in 2013.

Soon after the establishment of the Ford Israel Fund, however, controversy arose when it became increasingly obvious that the Ford Foundation was supporting numerous NGOs with strong anti-Israel views and agendas. In 2003 journalist Edwin Black, writing for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, penned a four-part series of articles titled “Funding Hate,” which statedthat “the overwhelming majority of Ford’s monies for the Middle East are granted to pro-Palestinian and Islamic rights groups.” These organizations were known, variously, for advocating boycotts against Israel; characterizing Arab terrorists as “activists” and “freedom fighters”; accusing Israel of deliberately targeting Arab civilians in its military operations; depicting suicide bombings as legitimate acts of “resistance”; calling Israel a practitioner of “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” “racist crimes against humanity,” and “genocide”; calling for the “complete and total isolation of Israel”; and defending the Palestinian “Right of Return.” Among these organizations were such notables as:

Black’s investigation sparked an outcry in Congress, wherein 21 Members of the House — led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D–New York) — called for an investigation into whether Ford had awarded any grants that ultimately benefited terrorist groups. Senator Charles Grassley (R–Iowa) threatened an investigation by the Senate Finance Committee. Ford president Susan Berresford, while not refuting any of Black’s findings, responded in a November 17, 2003 letter to Rep. Nadler, stating: “[T]he Foundation has not and would never knowingly support racial, religious, ethnic, or other forms of bigotry. Nor have we or would we knowingly fund any group that advocates violence or denies the legitimacy of Israel’s existence.” “We now recognize that we did not have a complete picture of the activities, organizations, and people involved” in the Durban conference, Berresford added. “We deeply regret that Foundation grantees may have taken part in unacceptable behavior at Durban.” Berresford also announced that Ford would thenceforth institute a number of changes in its international grantmaking. For example, the Foundation would now include in its grant-agreement letter two clauses which grantees would have to sign, stating that the grantee would neither “promote violence or terrorism,” nor practice bigotry, nor call “for the destruction of any state.” Moreover, Berresford pledged that every two weeks Ford would check the list of terrorist groups published by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, and that the Foundation would defund any organization whose name appeared on that list.

In April 2011, the Ford Foundation announced that it would not renew its Israel Fund beyond the current funding period, which was scheduled to expire in 2013.

Re-making America’s Law Schools, Shaping American Law

Ford has played a major role in funding what has been called “the rights revolution” that dates back to the 1960s and early ’70s, a movement wherein “public interest lawyers,” effectively acting as lobbyists in the courtroom for the poor and other “traditionally underrepresented groups,” persuade courts to create wholly new rights on behalf of those groups. Ford helped bankroll many of the legal action centers that were formed at more than 100 law schools in the U.S. during this period. These centers supported the rights revolution from within the walls of the law schools, while professors collaborated and strategized with outside parties like litigators, legal services programs, funders, and sympathetic journalists. Other foundations, observing that Ford’s investments in these causes had the potential to help reshape the law itself, began to follow Ford’s lead and thereby magnify its achievements.

In the 1950s Ford began devoting large sums of money to the goal of revamping law-school curricula, in large measure to re-orient law toward the cause of “social change” aimed at improving the lot of poor people and nonwhite minorities. As one Ford-sponsored panel put it, the goal was to “develo[p] the social conscience of law students and professors.” According to the Capital Research Center: “What seemed to work best was a strategic and anticipatory approach, in which lawyers identified key cases offering an opportunity to make new law, lined up sympathetic clients with which to bring such actions, and worked closely with the media to build public support. It was all given a new and flattering title: public interest law.”

In 1968 the Ford Foundation launched an entity called the Council on Legal Education for Professional Responsibility (CLEPR), to promote the notion of developing law school clinics — a new concept. According to the Capital Research Center, the objectives of these clinics were as follows:

“First and more obvious was the pedagogical: clinics would take students beyond books and lectures to impart skills by entrusting them with actual legal work. A second goal was to marshal a pool of resources with which to provide pro bono (free) legal representation to the poor, a traditional responsibility of the established bar that had often been ill-served. Third, and growing out of the work for poorer clients, the new clinics would become involved in test cases and other law reform litigation. Finally, the very experience of being thrown in with poor and oppressed clients would raise law students’ consciousness and accelerate the schools’ engagement with movements for ‘social change.’”

Years later, in 1989, Ford established something called the Inter-University Consortium on Poverty Law, which sought to advance “the mobilization of law schools for poverty law advocacy.”

The Capital Research Center explains how grantmaking by Ford and other left-wing foundations “has encouraged the shift of mood in law schools toward identity politics,” adding:

“[A]nd the movements that resulted—Critical Race Theory, legal feminism, and a half-dozen others. These movements have had an impact on law outside the walls, in areas like the slavery reparations campaign, in which support from law school activism played a key role. In one litigation campaign lasting more than 40 years, with strong Ford sponsorship, representatives of Indian tribes have filed land claims disputing the ownership of vast tracts of America, including the land beneath cities as large as Syracuse and Denver. The campaign started with a pioneering 1971 law review article. Both the slavery-reparations and the Indian-land-claim movements implicitly challenged the legitimacy of America’s national sovereignty at some level.”

In recent years, legal academia has seen the dramatic rise of the international human rights movement, a specialty advanced by dozens of schools through new centers, programs, and professorships that have received lavish funding from Ford. Says the Capital Research Center:

“Projects at many leading law schools now promote the view that the United States is a systematic violator of domestic human rights and should submit to the corrective authority of such transnational bodies as the U.N. Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the new International Criminal Court. Just as public interest law confers great power on the litigation groups that file the suits and determine their agenda, so the fashionable new world of international human rights law confers much power on complaint-filing groups. It also places great weight on the claimed consensus of something called the ‘international community.’ …

Ford played a central role in the 2002 estab [funding for nonprofit human rights groups and law school projects]. Subsequent grants enabled the human rights project at Columbia Law School to launch ‘Bring Human Rights Home,’ a campaign aimed at generating more international community scrutiny of and pressure against U.S. domestic policies. ‘Grantees use two strategic approaches,’ noted Ford in its Many Roads to Justice report. ‘They argue for the application of international laws in domestic courts and they take cases to international tribunals when domestic options have proved unsuccessful.’ The title of a 2006 symposium in the NYU Review of Law and Social Change summed up the strategy: ‘Realizing Domestic Social Justice Through International Human Rights.’ The movement has taken off. Hundreds of controversies arising from U.S. law and policymaking have been taken to international bodies. Advocates routinely accuse federal, state, and local governments in the United States of international human rights violations for not guaranteeing felons a right to vote after they finish their sentences; for immigration policies that turn away too many asylum seekers; for excluding persons with criminal records from public housing; for lack of comprehensive civilian review of police misconduct; for failure to print ballots in minority languages that have few exclusive speakers; and many, many more. Along with other big players, like Human Rights Watch, law school projects like Columbia’s and NYU’s are among regular complaint-filers.”

Ford and Affirmative Action

No leftist principle has received more funding or commitment from the Ford Foundation than affirmative action. In the 1999 Ford Foundation annual report, then-president Susan Berresford wrote that affirmative action is “a practical expression of our nation’s best values and ideals. It gives excluded groups a foothold in educational, employment, and other settings where talent and hard work can pay off. It opens informal networks of power and influence.”

The Ford Foundation Today

In recent decades, the Ford Foundation has continued to play a major role in shaping American culture, popular opinion, and public policy, by funding organizations whose agendas and worldviews are consistent with its own. These agendas and worldviews include:

  • the weakening of homeland security and anti-terrorism measures on the theory that they constitute unacceptable assaults on civil liberties;
  • the dissolution of American borders;
  • the promotion of mass, unchecked immigration to the United States;
  • the redistribution of wealth;
  • the blaming of America for virtually every conceivable international dispute;
  • the depiction of Israel as an oppressor state that routinely victimizes its Palestinian minority;
  • the weakening of American military capabilities (Ford is a member organization of both the Peace and Security Funders Group);
  • a devotion to the principle of preferences based on race, ethnicity, gender, and a host of other demographic attributes;
  • the condemnation of the U.S. as a racist, sexist, homophobic nation that discriminates against minorities, women and gays;
  • the characterization of America as an unrepentant polluter whose industrial pursuits cause immense harm to the natural environment;
  • the portrayal of the U.S. as a violator of human rights both at home and abroad;
  • the depiction of America as an aggressively militaristic nation; and
  • support for taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand as an inalienable right for all women.

Ford’s mission today is to help “all people … have the opportunity to reach their full potential, contribute to society, and have voice in the decisions that affect them”; “encourage initiatives by those living and working closest to where problems are located”; “promote collaboration among the nonprofit, government and business sectors”; and “ensure participation by men and women from diverse communities and all levels of society.”

Ford’s nearly $11 billion in assets make it the second-largest foundation in the United States today, after the $34 billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and it dwarfs its philanthropic counterparts on the right. ndeed, Ford’s grant-making is 15 times that of the three largest politically conservative foundations combined.[17]

The Ford Foundation’s philanthropic work currently focuses on the following array of major issues:

(1) Democratic and Accountable Government: “Our global work focuses on strengthening the right of people to assemble and advocate and on promoting greater government transparency and accountability … In the United States, we also focus on reforms that protect every individual’s right to participation in the political process, including ensuring an accurate census count, fair redistricting, and full access to voting.”

Increasing Civic and Political Participation: Asserting that “[l]asting social change depends upon the ability of people to help shape the policies that affect their lives,” Ford laments that “for some, such as racial minorities, immigrants and the working poor, barriers to meaningful participation in civic and political life persist.” The Foundation’s work “focuses on increasing the participation of poor and marginalized groups by strengthening organizations and networks that build and mobilize the grassroots base for social change.” Thus Ford funds a number of organizations that oppose voter ID laws and support voting rights for felons.

Promoting Electoral Reform and Democratic Participation: “Each decade, the census fails to accurately count communities of color, immigrants, low-income and other marginalized populations…. With census data used to both allocate public resources and draw legislative districts, the impact on these communities can be severe. Public funds and services may not be directed to communities that need them most, while flawed legislative districting can leave these communities underrepresented. Furthermore, the elections system is neither designed nor administered to ensure every citizen’s right to vote, often excluding society’s most vulnerable members.” To address this latter concern, Ford, as noted above, funds a number of organizations that oppose voter ID laws and support voting rights for felons.

Promoting Transparent, Effective and Accountable Government: “Around the world, we focus on fostering [government] transparency and increasing poor and marginalized people’s access to public resources—including funds designated for poverty reduction programs, as well as those derived from extractive industries—in a way that creates real and lasting change in their lives.”

Strengthening Civil Society and Philanthropy: “Robust civic associations can serve as catalysts for social change. Yet, in some countries, nongovernmental organizations lack the legal basis for registration and operation; regulatory frameworks are fragile and the very legitimacy of the sector itself is constantly questioned.”

(2) Economic Fairness: Emphasizing that “widely shared economic prosperity … improves the lives of low-income families and communities,” the Ford Foundation directs its philanthropy toward groups committed to “reforming public systems to help families move out of poverty and build the human capital, financial and productive assets they need for long-term intergenerational economic security”; “improving and expanding basic labor standards and social protection systems”; “making it easier for low-income working families to take advantage of government programs and services”; “broadening access to effective opportunities to gain new skills and move up career ladders”; “promoting savings through public programs that match savings, and through stronger social insurance programs”; “improving the regulation of financial markets to increase access for low-income families to responsible financial products”; and “developing innovative financial products and services that are affordable and have the potential to assist households build assets.”

Building Economic Security Over a Lifetime: “In the United States, our work promotes public support for policies that create universal and progressive savings accounts as well as Social Security reforms that increase benefits for low-wage workers. Internationally, we concentrate on helping people accumulate savings through programs that combine matched savings services with conditional cash transfer programs … to create permanent financial assets for poor households.”

Ensuring Good Jobs and Access to Services: Ford supports programs geared toward: “expanding access to unemployment insurance”; “ensuring that all workers earn a family-supporting wage and have access to paid sick days and paid family leave”; “promoting efforts to adequately fund and expand coverage of benefits such as tax credits, food stamps, health care and child care”; “encouraging states to make benefit application processes more integrated, flexible and responsive to the needs of working families”; and “expanding the delivery of benefits to new settings such as workforce services programs and community-based organizations.”

Expanding Livelihood Opportunities for Poor Households: “Seventy-five percent of the world’s extreme poor … live in rural areas…. Our work focuses primarily on finding innovative ways to improve the livelihoods of rural residents.”

Improving Access to Financial Services: Ford seeks to help “poor and marginalized populations” gain more “access to affordable and responsive financial products and services.”

Promoting the Next-Generation Workforce Strategies: “As the job market in the United States has shifted dramatically over the past three decades, growing numbers of Americans suffer from chronic unemployment or are trapped in low-wage jobs with limited resources to support a family and move up the economic ladder. Members of racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, and other marginalized populations are among the most vulnerable.”

(3) Educational Opportunity and Scholarship: This program focuses on “strengthening educational systems to ensure all young people receive an education that enables them to engage in meaningful work and contribute as citizens in diverse societies”; developing “expanded and redesigned learning opportunities, high-quality teaching, adequate and fairly distributed resources, and strong accountability”; supporting “greater access and affordability” vis-a-vis college education; promoting “innovations that increase the likelihood that students will earn degrees”; and “cultivating the next generation of public intellectuals to inform and inspire social justice progress.”

Higher Education for Social Justice: Lamenting that “students from poor, marginalized backgrounds” lag behind others in terms of college attendance and graduation, Ford is concerned with “creating robust tuition and financial aid policies geared to the needs of marginalized and low-income students,” and “scaling up effective academic support programs.”

More and Better Learning Time: According to the Ford Foundation: “The U.S. public education system’s six-hour school day and 180-day school year do not provide enough time to prepare young people to succeed in the 21st century…. While many families invest in additional instruction in a broad array of subjects and personalized support outside of school, children in communities of poverty are left on the sidelines, only widening the gaps in opportunity and achievement that threaten the nation’s future. These young people need more opportunities to learn and be safe in the idle, at-risk hours after school and during the long summer months.” To address these concerns, Ford supports efforts to create programs that: “provide additional hours of academic instruction, a well-rounded 21st-century curriculum, and … integrate traditional schooling with after-school, out-of-school … learning opportunities.”

Transforming Secondary Education: Ford supports programs geared toward “expanding access to education and reducing withdrawal rates among poor minority children” in China.

(4) Freedom of Expression: This Ford Foundation program “supports policies that ensure equal access to all media platforms, promotes social justice content in media, and fosters documentary films that explore the social justice issues on which the foundation focuses”; “invest[s] in the creative capital of underserved communities by supporting arts spaces that embrace marginalized voices and diverse audiences”; and “support[s] religious leaders and institutions that engage in public efforts to promote justice and equity.”

Advancing Media Rights and Access: “Without fair media policies to protect the needs of the public,” says Ford, “millions of people will remain underrepresented and excluded from important opportunities to connect, contribute and achieve.” Thus the Foundation supports “fair media policies that advance competition, openness, innovation and universal access to high speed internet for everyone” — “especially the poor and marginalized.”

Advancing Public Service Media: “To expand media’s role in building stronger and freer societies, we are working to develop a vibrant public interest media service for the 21st century in Eastern Africa, West Africa, Indonesia, and India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.”

JustFilms: JustFilms supports the production and distribution of independent motion pictures that “educate, motivate, and create positive change in people’s lives by conveying stories that have the power to transform how we think and act.”

Media and Justice: This initiative supports “principled news reporting in the United States that illuminates social problems, sparks accountability, and inspires action.” Particular focus is placed on media that “exposes injustice” and “lifts the voices and perspectives of marginalized groups.”

Religion in the Public Sphere: Asserting that “progressive religious leaders and groups provide moral leadership, social capital and institutional resources dedicated to social justice and equity,” this Ford Foundation program is dedicated to: “strengthening justice-oriented, faith-based groups, coalitions and leaders; elevating the public debate around religion through diversifying and enhancing media coverage of religion; and supporting research and development of innovative ideas and strategies that contribute to religious-oriented work for a more just society.”

Supporting Diverse Arts Spaces: This program “supports the creation of a new generation of arts leadership and facilities that are firmly grounded in the communities in which they reside and that are models of artistic innovation, cultural and community collaboration, and social partnership.”

(5) Gender, Sexuality and Reproductive Justice: This program is “dedicated to strengthening sexual and reproductive health and rights, and encouraging comprehensive sexuality education and evidence-based public discourse on sexuality.”

Advancing LGBT Rights: “While the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has made great strides in advancing their rights, full equality remains elusive,” says Ford. “Throughout the United States, LGBT communities—in particular low-income, elderly and young people—regularly face discrimination and a disregard for basic human rights.” Thus the Foundation backs organizations that work to help the LGBT community gain “economic benefits”; “relationship recognition”; “employment non-discrimination”; “safety from violence, harassment and mistreatment”; and greater social acceptance.

Promoting Reproductive Rights and the Right to Sexual Health: This program strives to address the fact that “many governments fail to provide quality services or adopt and enforce health policies and laws” that protect “sexual and reproductive rights.”

Protecting Women’s Rights: This program bankrolls efforts to: “fully implement laws and international commitments that address women’s inequality and discrimination”; “build effective women’s networks and human rights organizations that attempt to prevent and remedy structural causes of gender inequality and discrimination”; “strengthen the leadership opportunities of marginalized women by equipping them with a voice to articulate the problems that affect their lives”; “craft solutions that help solve these problems”; and “contribute to practical, legal and policy changes that advance women’s human rights and achieve a broader and more meaningful social justice.”

Reducing HIV/AIDS Discrimination and Exclusion: “Globally, 90 percent of all HIV infections are found in lower- or middle-income nations. In all country contexts, the picture is the same: The poor and excluded are at greatest risk for HIV infection and encompass the largest proportions of people living with HIV/AIDS.” To “overcome systematic discrimination against people living with, affected by, or vulnerable to HIV/AIDS,” Ford supports work — in multiple regions around the world — that “pilots and advocates for appropriate legal, policy, health, economic and other remedies.”

Supporting Sexuality Research: This program supports efforts to “strengthen and expand research that addresses the diverse social and cultural dimensions of sexuality and reproductive health.”

Youth Sexuality, Reproductive Health, and Rights (SRHR): “In many parts of the world,” says Ford, “gender inequality and poverty close off countless life options for girls…. Many young people are also denied access to information and support that would enable them to protect their own sexual and reproductive health.” Thus the Foundation supports “education and communications efforts” designed to “transform social norms and stigma that often stand as barriers to young people’s improved SRHR outcomes.”

(6) Human Rights: The Ford Foundation supports oranizations that are dedicated to: “securing equal rights and opportunity for all”; helping “vulnerable populations gain access to the social, political and cultural institutions that govern their rights”; “strengthening organizations and mechanisms that enforce human rights”; “monitoring the policies and practices of institutions that affect the well-being of individual citizens”; “supporting legal and advocacy efforts to establish and retain basic civil, economic and social rights”; and “ensuring [that] civil and criminal-justice systems are fair, effective, accessible and nondiscriminatory.” The emphasis is placed on “the world’s most marginalized groups” who “face some of the severest forms of discrimination.” These include women, racial and ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, immigrant communities, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

Advancing Racial Justice and Minority Rights: Lamenting that “racial, ethnic and caste-based discrimination persists worldwide,” Ford supports efforts to “reform and enforce policies and laws that strengthen racial justice and human rights.”

Protecting Immigrant and Migrant Rights: According to Ford, immigrants in the United States have been subjected to “large-scale immigration roundups, the denial of due process in deportation proceedings, abusive detention conditions, and increased hate crimes and bias attacks.” Moreover, the Foundation deplores the “growing number of aggressive local measures attempting to restrict every aspect of life, including housing, education and employment, push immigrants into a marginalized existence.” To address these matters, Ford supports organizations that are engaged in “immigrant rights advocacy,” including “efforts to secure comprehensive immigration reform.”

Reforming Civil and Criminal Justice Systems: Ford laments that “the United States has the world’s highest incarceration rate” — “with poor people and people of color filling a vastly disproportionate number of prison and jail cells.” “Both in the United States and in other countries,” says the Foundation, “civil and criminal justice systems face immense challenges in providing equal protection under the law, access to a fair legal process, adequate legal representation and information about legal rights and opportunities.” To address these matters, Ford supports organizations dedicated to: “developing innovative pathways to public safety that avoid excessive sentencing”; “increasing the quality of indigent defense”; “strengthening the voices of reform-minded prosecutors”; and “promoting greater understanding of the civil and criminal systems.”

Strengthening Human Rights Worldwide: Ford supports groups that work “to confront structural discrimination and inequality, and ensure that the rights of the world’s historically marginalized people are implemented and enforced at the national, regional and international levels.”

(7) Metropolitan Opportunity: “Across entire regions of the country,” says Ford, “cities are in decline, industries have collapsed, houses are in foreclosure, and … jobs and services had moved to the suburbs and beyond. Decades of inadequate public policy and planning have created concentrated pockets of poverty in urban centers devoid of opportunity and inner ring suburbs that are experiencing a more rapid growth of poverty.” To address these problems, the Foundation supports “organizations that pursue integrated approaches to housing, land use and environmental planning, public transportation and community infrastructure, and aligned workforce opportunities.”

Connecting People to Opportunity: “Gaining access to opportunities—especially for African Americans and Latinos—increasingly requires long commutes and high transportation costs. Meanwhile, state and federal budget priorities run counter to the needs of low-income workers, with three times as much funding invested in highways as in public transportation…. At the national level, we support research and advocacy that makes the case for prioritizing public transit funding over financing for roads and bridges.”

Expanding Access to Quality Housing: “To help low-income families in metropolitan areas move toward financial stability and security,” Ford promotes “the development of homes that are linked to public transportation, good schools, secure employment, and help provide innovative finance tools to purchase and maintain them.”

Just Cities: Many people in cities around the world, says Ford, “still contend with substandard housing, poor infrastructure, unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and significant social isolation that inhibits their economic opportunities. By 2030, the number of people living in slum settlements in the Global South is expected to roughly double.” To address this problem, the Foundation supports “civil society organizations, social movement groups, practitioners, researchers, public and private sector partners, and other stakeholders to realize equitable, sustainable, and prosperous Global South cities.” The overarching objective is to “build truly just cities, shaped by fairness, opportunity and a commitment to shared prosperity.”

Promoting Metropolitan Land-Use Innovation: “In thriving metropolitan regions, we focus on securing well-located properties for affordable housing development through inclusionary housing ordinances, density bonuses for affordable housing, and targeted land-acquisition measures. In declining areas, we focus on eliminating blight by acquiring abandoned properties for community-driven redevelopment and helping cities to make better use of available land.”

(8) Sustainable Development: This Ford program proceeds from the premise that “many of the world’s poorest families rely on natural resources—forests, grasslands and other natural assets—for their basic livelihoods, yet they have limited rights over these resources … [and are] particularly susceptible to the threats posed by climate change.” To address these concerns, the Foundation “support[s] the development of natural resource policies and programs that give poor communities more control over these resources and a stronger voice in decision making on land use and development”; focuses its efforts “on poor rural communities, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities and women, in particular”; and “promot[es] … smart environmental policies that increase poor people’s access to natural resources while simultaneously addressing climate change.”

  • Climate Change Responses That Strengthen Rural Communities: In light of the fact that “[t]he majority of the world’s poor live in rural areas that face severe vulnerability to the threats posed by climate change,” Ford “work[s] to address flawed policies that can limit poor people’s access to the natural resources they depend on,” and “promot[es] socially just climate change policies that meet the needs of the rural poor.”
  • Expanding Community Rights Over Natural Resources: To “support the development of improved natural resource policies and programs that offer poor and marginalized groups more access and ownership over natural resources,” Ford partners at the global, national and regional levels with think tanks, grassroots organizations, governments, advocacy groups, universities, and private companies.

The Ford Foundation’s current president is Darren Walker, who graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1982 and earned a JD at the University of Texas School of Law four years later. Prior to joining the Ford Foundation in 2010 as its vice president for Education, Creativity and Free Expression, Walker was vice president for foundation initiatives at the Rockefeller Foundation. He became Ford’s president in 2013. He is a board member of the Arcus Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Friends of the High Line, the New York City Ballet, and the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ties to the 2020 Joe Biden-Kamala Harris Presidential Campaign

Key members of the Joe BidenKamala Harris Democratic presidential campaign of 2020 had previously served as Ford Foundation executives. For example, Harris’s sister and ex-campaign chairwoman Maya Harris had once been the Foundation’s vice president alongside Biden’s 2020 senior advisor, Cristóbal Alex, who had served as the Foundation’s program director during the Barack Obama presidency. Other Ford Foundation staffers who had previously held high positions in the Obama administration included: (a) Ford’s chief of staff,  Taara Rangarajan, who had been Obama’s national security advisor from 2013-2016; and (b) Ford executive Xavier de Souza Briggs, who had been Obama’s associate director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Beneficiaries of Ford Foundation Funding

In addition to the grantees named earlier in this profile, other beneficiaries Ford Foundation support include: the Alliance for Justice; the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights; the American Bar Association Fund for Justice and Education; the American Friends Service Committee; the Arms Control Association; the Aspen Institute; the Brennan Center for Justice; the Brookings Institution; the Carter CenterCatholics for a Free Choice; the Center for the Advancement of Women; the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; the Center for Community Change; the Center for Constitutional Rights; the Center for Economic and Policy Research; the Center for Economic and Social Rights; the Center for International Policy; the Center for Reproductive Rights; the Center for Women’s Policy Studies; the Council on Foundations; the Democracy Matters InstituteDemocracy Now Productions; Dream Defenders; the Earth Action NetworkEarth Day Network; the Earth Island InstituteEcoTrust; the Environmental Defense Fund; the Environmental Working Group; the Feminist Majority FoundationFenton CommunicationsFree PressFriends of the Earth; the Health, Development, Information and Policy InstituteHuman Rights FirstHuman Rights Watch; the Immigrant Workers Citizenship Project; the Institute for Public Accuracy; the Institute for Women’s Policy Research; the International Crisis Group; the International Federation of Human RightsIttijahLAW; the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under LawMIFTAH; the Migration Policy Institute; the Ms. Foundation for Women; the National Alliance for Choice in Giving; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense & Education Fund; the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy; the National Council of La Raza; the National Immigration Forum; the National Immigration Law Center; the National Lawyers Guild; the National Organization for WomenNational Partnership for Women and FamiliesNational Public Radio; the National Wildlife Federation; the National Women’s Law Center; the Neighborhood Funders Group; the New Israel Fund; the Nine to Five Working Women Education Fund; Oxfam America; Oxfam International; the Pacifica Foundation; the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organization NetworkPeople for the American WayPhysicians for Human RightsPhysicians for Social ResponsibilityPlanned Parenthood; the Ploughshares FundPolitical Research Associates; the Proteus FundPublic Citizen; the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund; the Rainforest Action Network; the Rainforest Alliance;the Rockefeller Family Fund; the Save The Children FundState Voices; the Tides Foundation and the Tides CenterTrust for Public Land; the Union of Concerned Scientists; the Union for Palestinian Medical Relief Committee; the United Nations; the United Nations Foundation; the 2001 United Nations World Conference Against Racism; the United States Student Association; the Urban Institute; the USActionEducation Fund; the Womens Action for New Directions Education Fund; the World Resources Institute; the World Social Forum; and the World Wildlife Fund/Conservation Foundation.

To view a list of additional noteworthy grantees of the Ford Foundation, click here.

The Ford Foundation has also given money to several Black Lives Matter affiliates that have close ties to the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

In 2014, the Ford Foundation collaborated with the Neighborhood Funders Group and the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock to launch a new project called (FFJ), a “virtual organizing space” where funders and affinity groups could connect with one another vis-à-vis “the movement” for “police accountability and racial justice.” Ford and its FFJ co-founders were motivated to form this new entity by the famous August 9, 2014 incident where a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black criminal who was attempting to steal the officer’s gun. By Ford’s’s reckoning, Brown’s death was a result of an excessive use of force by the police. (For details of that incident and the massive wave of anti-police protests and riots that eventually grew out of it, click here.)

In the summer of 2016, the Ford Foundation and Borealis Philanthropy announced the formation of the Black-Led Movement Fund (BLMF), a six-year pooled donor campaign whose goal was to raise $100 million for the Movement for Black Lives coalition, a alliance that includes Black Lives Matter. According to Borealis, “The BLMF provides grants, movement building resources, and technical assistance to organizations working to advance the leadership and vision of young, Black, queer, feminists and immigrant leaders who are shaping and leading a national conversation about criminalization, policing and race in America.” In a joint statement, Ford and Borealis said that their Fund would “complement the important work” of charities including the Hill-Snowden Foundation, Solidaire, the NoVo Foundation, the Association of Black Foundation Executives, the Neighborhood Funders Group, anonymous donors, and others. In addition to raising $100 million for the Movement for Black Lives, the BLMF planned to collaborate with Benedict Consulting on “the organizational capacity building needs of a rapidly growing movement.”

Between 2016 and 2020, the Ford Foundation contributed many millions of dollars to organizations dedicated to defunding and destroying police departments – e.g., allies in the “Defund the Police” movement. This movement was born with seed funding from the Ford Foundation in 2015 as an outgrowth of the University of Chicago-based Black Youth Project 100 (BYP 100). From 2015-20, the Ford Foundation gave approximately $3.1 million to BYP100.

In September 2020, Law Enforcement Today reported on the Ford Foundation’s continued support of Black Lives Matter, as well as its support of the Marxist/anarchist Antifa movement:

“The Ford Foundation has been funding both Antifa and Black Lives Matter groups to administer justice to America whose history began with ‘the genocide of indigenous peoples and continued with the enslavement of African people, whose free labor built the wealth of countless white Americans,’ according to [the Ford Foundation] website.

“[The] Ford Foundation has given $1.2 Million to an Antifa network made up of members of the communist Workers World Party (WWP). The group is called the Southern Vision Alliance, whose activists operate in NYC, New Orleans, Chicago, and in cities across North Carolina…. Just after getting the Ford Foundation’s donation, these Antifa members performed one of the country’s first activist-led demolitions of a monument – it happened in Durham, North Carolina. After the vandals were arrested and charged for rioting and property damage, they were defended in court for free by lawyers paid for by the Ford Foundation.

“Emboldened by early successes, these Antifa members started a tactical training program across the country where comrades learn how to incite angry mobs, how to tear down statues, and how to evade arrest.

“This Antifa network serves the Ford Foundation’s goal of ‘disrupting systems to advance social justice.’ This year, the Ford Foundation gave them $750K … bringing the foundation’s total ”contribution to $1.2 million dollars.


[1] Eric Thomas Chester, Covert Network: Progressives, the International Rescue Committee, and the CIA, (M.E. Sharpe, 1995), p. 43.

[2] David Halberstam, “The Very Expensive Education of McGeorge Bundy,” Harper’s, July 1969.

[3] Alfred Regnery, Upstream: The Ascendance of Conservatism, (Simon and Schuster, 2008), Regnery, p. 201.

[4] Vincent Cannato, The Ungovernable City, (Basic Books, 2002), pp. 340 – 351.

[5] Vincent Cannato, The Ungovernable City, (Basic Books, 2002), pp. 340 – 351.

[6] Peter B. Levy, The New Left and Labor in the 1960s, (University of Illinois Press, 1994), p. 80.

[7] Noliwe Rooks, White Money/Black Power: The Surprising History of African American Studies and the Crisis of Race in Higher Education, (Beacon Press, 2007), pp. 88-89.

[8] Juan Sepúlveda, The Life and Times of Willie Velásquez, (Arte Publico Press, 2003), p. 89.

[9] Alfred Regnery, Upstream: The Ascendance of Conservatism, (Simon and Schuster, 2008), p. 200.

[10] Robert Grimm, Notable American Philanthropists: Biographies of Giving and Volunteering, (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002), p. 97.

[11] Alvin S. Felzenberg, Governor Tom Kean: From the New Jersey Statehouse to the 911 Commission, (Rutgers University Press, 2006), pp. 91-92.

[12] Steven Teles, The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law, (Princeton University Press, 2010), p. 46.

[13] Steven Teles, The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law, (Princeton University Press, 2010), p. 46.

[14] Steven Teles, The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law, (Princeton University Press, 2010), p. 49.

[15] Steven Teles, The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law, (Princeton University Press, 2010), p. 49.

[16] Steven Teles, The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law, (Princeton University Press, 2010), p. 49.

[17] William Baker, Endless Money: The Moral Hazards of Socialism, (John Wiley and Sons, 2009), p. 176.

* Portions of this profile are excerpted from The New Leviathan, by David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin (Crown Forum, 2012).

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