During the twentieth century, American philanthropy was increasingly influenced by American foreign policy while the philanthropic ideal exerted a powerful influence on the formulation of foreign policy. Before World War I, as European colonial powers sought to acquire territory in the Americas, federal policymakers sought to prevent European interventions in the Caribbean and Philippines, which led them to fund public works projects and schools in the region. The Messina earthquake of 1908 resulted in an unprecedented congressional appropriation of $800,000 and a reconstruction program supervised by American naval personnel. And a public-private partnership resulted in a proactive agenda to prevent flooding in China. The agenda aimed to extend cooperation between the American Red Cross, the federal government, and private bankers.
World War I produced a vast outpouring of philanthropic activity abroad, and resulted in remarkable federal-state-private cooperation and cooperation of philanthropic and foreign policy agencies. Early in the war, the American Red Cross attempted to provide hospitals for both sides, but an upsurge of sympathy for Belgium and France produced a pro-Allied tilt to American philanthropy. In the United States there sprang up numerous pro-Allied relief groups, for care of the wounded, and for aid to widows and orphans. Most important was the feeding of nine million Belgians, as Americans contributed some $34.5 million, and established the worldwide reputation of its director, Herbert Hoover.
Following the American declaration of war, military and philanthropic mobilization marched together. A significant development was expansion of the Red Cross, which, with new leadership from finance and industry and vastly expanded membership and contributions, deployed some 6,000 workers to France and provided hospitals, relief supplies, and an antituberculosis campaign, as well as refugee resettlement. At the same time the newly founded American Friends Service Committee (1917) sent volunteers to help with reconstruction.
Far from demobilizing after the war, American relief efforts expanded, owing to a large infusion of federal government funds. In 1919, with Europe suffering from destruction, starvation, and disease, Congress established the American Relief Administration (ARA) under Herbert Hoover with an appropriation of $100 million; within a year, public appeals yielded an additional $29 million for assistance. The ARA emphasized feeding undernourished children and delivered large quantities of food. The aid was intended, moreover, to bolster feeble East European parliamentary regimes against the Bolshevik threat.
Despite opposition to Bolshevism, famine in Russia brought forth a vigorous response. Congress raised $20 million, and by 1922 the ARA, under the direction of Colonel William N. Haskell, operated 18,000 feeding stations in Russia, as public and private contributions grew to a total of $80 million. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee contributed to the peoples of Poland and the Ukraine. Some liberal groups, suspicious of the ARA's presumed aims, contributed several million dollars more.
In the Near East, the Ottoman Empire was beset by revolutionary activity, ethnic conflict, and Greco-Turkish warfare. Some urged the United States to accept a philanthropic mandate for the former empire, but when Congress failed to respond, they turned to private initiative, and between 1918 and 1924, they raised almost $90 million for Near East relief. Moreover, chaotic conditions in Turkey, Persia, and Armenia stirred missionary interests to raise almost $7 million by 1917, while concern for coreligionists in central Europe and Palestine yielded contributions of $15 million from Jewish groups in America. Coincident with these initiatives, Chinese famine relief produced gifts from both churches and government, and gave rise to an extensive program of work relief.
Despite the Senate's rejection of the League of Nations, American philanthropists were not isolationist; indeed, between 1919 and 1939 the philanthropic expenditures of American voluntary agencies averaged $63.5 million annually. As at earlier times, the pattern of giving reflected cultural and ethnic affinities: Europe and Asia received the lion's share and Latin America lagged far behind, as did Africa. Protestants contributed 47 percent of the total, which focused on Europe, India, China, and Japan; nonsectarian donors contributed 34 percent of the total and focused on Europe, the Near East, and China; Jewish contributors gave 12 percent and it went mainly to Europe and Palestine; and the Catholic portion, 7 percent, went mainly to Europe and China.
During the interwar period, philanthropy's attention focused on problem areas of the world involving large population groups. Civil strife in Ireland drew forth from the Irish-American community generous contributions for relief, as well as for support of independence. American Jewish donors provided more than one-third of the out-side support for the Jewish community in Palestine, while it also aided the resettlement of some 200,000 Jews in the Ukraine, Crimea, Poland, and Germany. In the case of China, the American public responded to the disastrous famine of 1927 and the Yangtze flood of 1931.
Natural disasters also called forth American responses, the most dramatic being for the great Tokyo earthquake of 1923, which left some 200,000 dead and 2 million homeless. The U.S. Asiatic Fleet and the Philippine Department of the Army sent supplies costing $6 million for immediate help; private donations totaled more than $12 million, including $1.5 million donated by Rockefeller foundations to help rebuild the University of Tokyo. American contributions amounted to almost three-quarters of total relief, but such generosity was vitiated by the ban on Japanese immigration, which was imposed by the same Congress that had funded emergency relief.
Between the wars, American foundations assumed an increasingly prominent role in the totality of American philanthropy, especially in cultural activities and health care. The Carnegie Endowment rebuilt libraries and supported large-scale academic studies of war. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., built the League of Nations Library at Geneva, while the Rockefeller Foundation financed foreign policy studies and international scholar exchanges. The Harkness family founded the Commonwealth Fund (1918), which dedicated itself to the welfare of mankind; and in 1930 the Pilgrim Trust gave $10 million to Great Britain for its "future well-being." The Rockefeller Foundation helped rebuild the University of Louvain and the cathedral at Rheims, and it under-wrote maintenance costs of Versailles and Fontainebleau, as it expanded the American schools at Athens and Rome.
Moreover, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and private individuals made sizable gifts to British, European, Canadian, and Mexican universities. Outside the Atlantic world, educational efforts were concentrated on the Near Eastern colleges, Hebrew University of Palestine, Chinese colleges, and surveys of educational programs in Africa and East Asia. James Loeb supported a psychiatric institute in Munich and George Eastman provided dental clinics in a number of European capitals. The Rockefeller Foundation funded work on parasitic and infectious diseases when it established Peking Union Medical College.
As world peace gave way in the late 1930s, American philanthropists watched with foreboding and, despite the U.S. Neutrality Acts, philanthropists engaged from the outset of the growing world crisis. In 1939 there developed a coordinated effort marked by cooperation between sectarian relief agencies, organized labor, and government. The Spanish Civil War drew American volunteers to the Loyalist side in opposition to fascism, but the Neutrality Acts dampened the spirit of giving and led to only $3 million raised for humanitarian assistance.
Relief funds followed the chronology of disaster and were sent to the Czechs after the Munich agreement, as well as the conquered Poles, Finns, Dutch, French, Greeks, and Russians as their countries were overrun. Especially notable was the rapid organization of a Russian relief effort and its impressive backing from professional and financial groups. In 1941 assistance provided to China by missionary organizations and the Chinese-American community gained new support when growing concern for Asia led to the organization of the United China Relief Agency with Eleanor Roosevelt as honorary chairperson.
By far the greatest assistance went to Britain, as the mother of parliaments stood alone against the Nazi threat. The Bundles for Britain campaign was followed by a dispatch of ambulances and medical personnel, and by the summer of 1941, British War Relief achieved backing from business and labor and raised more than $10 million and $90 million had been raised for overseas war relief by the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The U.S. Department of State coordinated these efforts and by 1945 the number of relief agencies had been reduced from 300 to 90.
The Axis occupation of Europe posed the difficult ethical question of whether the subject populations should be helped, for fear of assisting the occupying Axis powers. Although Herbert Hoover strongly urged feeding the victims of Nazi aggression, the opposite view prevailed. Only about $2 million went to relief in Nazi Germany. Congress appropriated $50 million for relief, which was administered by the Red Cross, and more than half went to Britain and none to occupied areas.
By 1945 organized labor emerged as a major donor and together with religious and ethnic groups, it raised the annual total of private giving for overseas assistance to $234 million. By this time, government coordination had coalesced voluntary agencies, and total contributions, between 1939 and 1945, included $54 million for Russia, $38 million for Great Britain, $36 million for Palestine, $35 million for China, and $30 million for Greece.
However impressive, this private assistance was not nearly enough. As increasing needs called for increased response, and as relief supplies followed the armies into liberated areas, stop-gap governmental efforts were succeeded first by interallied coordination and then by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), headed by Herbert H. Lehman. The work of UNRRA, on a wholly new scale, was of necessity largely American-supported: of almost $4 billion dispensed between 1943 and 1947, 70 percent was provided by the United States. Again with victory the demands increased. In the theaters of conflict the destruction vastly exceeded that of World War I, an enormous refugee problem existed, and dislocations between city and countryside threatened a dangerously deteriorating food situation.
Although some Americans, relieved of the strains of war, evinced a willingness to let the world be, most still saw a compelling need to help, both on ethical and humanitarian grounds and for reasons of policy, as they sought to further democracy, stability, peace, and prosperity, reminiscent of the period after World War I. Given the tensions that later developed, it is worth noting that the appeal of Russian relief, so strong during the fighting, survived the moment of victory: $32 million in cash and kind was provided in 1945 and assistance continued into 1946. But soon the Soviets declared their independence of outside aid, while the coming of the Cold War brought the containment of communism into the forefront of motives for reconstruction.
The response of the voluntary agencies in the immediate postwar period was impressive: expenditures between 1945 and 1948 totaled $1.1 billion. For the government, withdrawal from UNRRA on grounds of bad administration and ideological conflict was followed by support of the International Refugee Organization; by implementation of the Marshall Plan, a mixture of policy and humanitarian objectives between 1948 and 1952; contribution of some $13 billion to the rebuilding of postwar Europe; and by the Food for Peace program inaugurated in 1954 under the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act.
The postwar years were also marked by a "remarkable partnership" of public and private efforts founded on the extemporized successes of private agencies in postwar Germany and Japan; by the contributions of American Jews, who taxed themselves more heavily than any other sectarian group; and by the innovative Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere (CARE), which advanced from early shipment of surplus army rations to the large-scale movement of surplus agricultural products and whose deliveries grew in value from $500,000 in 1946 to $54 million in 1955. Whether all this generosity, if such it can be considered, was adequate to the need may be argued. Perhaps the best assessment comes through comparison of this treatment of liberated and conquered peoples with that provided by other nations in other campaigns.
In the 1950s, as European reconstruction progressed, the focus of overseas philanthropy shifted back to the less developed world: after 1958 more than half of disposable resources went to non-European areas. This shift also emphasized the surprising vigor of the missionary movement, now more than ever equated with social welfare, to which in 1956 American Protestants contributed some $130 million and American Catholics some $50 million. In the early 1950s, indeed, Protestant groups spent more for overseas technical assistance than the United States and the United Nations combined, and their accomplishments provided precedents for governmental action: the Point Four program, launched in 1950, early modeled itself on the Near East Foundation; a decade later the Peace Corps drew on the experience of the interdenominational International Voluntary Services (1953).
These private and public efforts were accompanied by expanded activity on the part of the larger foundations, which greatly increased their contributions to projects concerned with international affairs. Of these institutions, two were preeminent. Shifting its focus from its prewar concern with the eradication of disease, and following in the steps of such nineteenth-century pioneers as Horace Capron, Charles J. Murphy, and David Lubin, the Rockefeller Foundation took as its major goal the modernization of agriculture in the developing countries. Among the striking results were a doubling of Mexican food production between 1943 and 1963 and that of India between 1951 and 1971, and the establishment in 1960 of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.
Important assistance in establishing the Rice Institute came from the Ford Foundation, a new giant of philanthropy, whose resources of $3.6 billion (1968) enabled it to provide more than a quarter of all foundation grants devoted to international affairs. In pursuit of its ambitious aims, reminiscent of Andrew Carnegie, of the "establishment of peace," the Ford Foundation undertook extensive efforts to attack poverty, hunger, and disease, and to further social science and planning. And as birth rates steadily threatened to outstrip production, notwithstanding the successes of plant geneticists in producing high-yield varieties ("Green Revolution"), foundations and government agencies alike edged delicately into stabilizing population growth.
Except for Liberia, American philanthropy had stayed away from Africa, but neglect shifted somewhat in the 1970s, partly owing to the emergence of an African-American lobby. During the 1920s and 1930s, African Americans had protested against U.S. occupation of Haiti and Italian aggression in Ethiopia via traditional channels like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, but it was in the 1970s that African Americans organized groups devoted solely to the purpose of influencing American foreign policy and leveraging private and government aid for Haiti and Africa. Following the congressional elections of 1970, African Americans in the House of Representatives organized the Black Caucus.
In March 1971 the Black Caucus urged President Richard Nixon to enact economic sanctions against minority white rule in South Africa. In Washington in May 1978, U.S. Congress Representatives Charles C. Diggs, Jr., and Andrew Young, among others, organized TransAfrica, Inc., a mass-based African-American foreign policy lobby. As leader of TransAfrica, Randall Robinson helped orchestrate an economic blockade against South African apartheid and TransAfrica established itself as the foremost voice for expressing African-American opinion on foreign policy issues. In 1986, when President Ronald Reagan vetoed a ban of loans and investments in South Africa, African Americans regarded it as hostile to their interests. In October, Congress overrode the presidential veto, as it responded to the lobbying of TransAfrica and white liberal opinion. South Africa is now free from apartheid partly because of the U.S. economic sanctions enacted following 1986. And once apartheid was eliminated, TransAfrica and other groups shifted their focus from imposing an embargo to leveraging increases in private and government grants to South Africans and to fighting the scourge of AIDS in Africa.
Meanwhile, as head of TransAfrica, Robinson's highly publicized twenty-seven-day hunger strike, which called upon President William Jefferson Clinton to restore democratic rule in Haiti, led the president to initiate new policies toward the repressive military dictatorship in Haiti. President Clinton intervened there with a force of 20,000 U.S. troops, which resulted in the restoration of the democratically elected leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to the presidency of the former French West Indian colony. Robinson has helped leverage private and government assistance for Haiti while the George Soros Foundations provided private assistance to island republics and southern Africa.