Rockefeller Brothers Fund Timeline

1940s: Beginning at the Brink of War

In its first decade, the Fund’s largest combined giving was to war relief and reconstruction worldwide.

New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) opened in 1929 through the efforts of three women, including Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, mother of the five founding RBF trustees.

1960s: Tradition and Tumult

Against a backdrop of political protest and social upheaval, the 1960s saw the RBF increase its endowment and make between $6 and $8 million in grants each year.

The RBF supported the Arkansas Arts Center beginning in 1962, with capital and construction funds to finance its main building in Little Rock.

As Colonial Williamsburg evolved into the large-scale historic and educational park it remains to this day, it was almost exclusively a Rockefeller-supported endeavor well into the 1970s.

The RBF supported the creation of Lincoln Center with a gift of $2.5 million in 1962.

In 1968, the RBF made a $500,000 grant to the NTHP, the largest received for general purposes by the Trust since its 1949 inception.

The RBF supported the New York Public Library (NYPL) with annual grants as early as 1952. In 1968, it made a special $25,000 gift toward the preservation of the Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and History, which had deteriorated severely.

The RBF provided advice and assistance to founders Carter Burden and Frank Donnelly and director Charles Inniss, and became one of the museum’s earliest funders.

1970s: Decade of Disquiet

Despite intergenerational conflicts, the Fund responded to the concerns of the era with programs in equal opportunity, urban problems, U.S. Southern development, the environment, and fostering the health of the private sector.

Initially housed in Harlem’s St. James Presbyterian Church, by the 1970s the Harlem School of the Arts sought permanent quarters. In 1973, the RBF contributed $100,000 to this capital campaign.

1980s: Global Interdependence

The 1980s saw the Fund focusing on issues at home and abroad in the areas of agricultural reform, post-apartheid democracy in South Africa, and nuclear non-proliferation. In New York City, it worked on the social toll of AIDS, affordable housing, sustainable urban development, and public education.

In 1980 the Fund initiated the RBF Awards in Arts Education to recognize and reward excellence in arts education in elementary and secondary schools across the United States.

1990s: Changing Geopolitics and Civil Society

The 1990s witnessed the fall of two seemingly entrenched political orders: Communist regimes in the Eastern bloc and apartheid in South Africa. These seismic geopolitical shifts both invited the Fund’s response and reaffirmed its existing involvement in both regions.

In 1991, the RBF entered into a special arrangement with the Asian Cultural Council, housing the organization in the Fund’s offices for several years, engaging in joint fundraising efforts, and making annual grants toward its general support.

2000s: Globalization’s Discontents

The years since 2000 have witnessed rapid and chaotic trends in globalization as well as violent regional conflicts with devastating immediate consequences and far-reaching global effects.

In 2014, the Fund launched the Charles E. Culpeper Arts & Culture grants, honoring the legacy of the Culpeper Foundation and uniting two RBF commitments in need of redefinition: the arts and New York City.