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.

The Riverside Church has had a strong presence in social justice campaigns including the anti-war, anti-death penalty, and immigrants’ rights movements. It has served as a speaking forum for Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Desmond Tutu, and Nelson Mandela.

RBF gave regularly to the church from the 1940s through the 1970s, in some years contributing almost half of its operating budget.

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.

Established by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in 1938, the Sealantic Fund merged with the RBF in 1973.

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.

The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA had been a longtime RBF grantee, with almost $1 million in grants since 1951. In 1995, the National Council launched a project it described as a “civic space” to encourage citizen participation in New York City issues.