The Phelps Stokes Fund was founded through a bequest in 1911 from Caroline Phelps Stokes. Her son, Anson Phelps Stokes II (1874–1958), guided the foundation during its early years. It is the oldest continuously operating foundation serving the needs of African Americans. The fund has also addressed the needs of Native Americans, Africans, and the rural and urban poor. Among the organizations that can trace their origins to the fund are the African Student Aid Fund, the American Indian College Fund, the Archbishop Tutu Southern African Scholarship Fund, the Association of Black American Ambassadors, the Booker Washington Institute of Liberia, the Boys Choir of Harlem, the Cooperative College Development Fund, the Caribbean Cultural Association, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the Native American Science Association, the South African Institute of Race Relations, and the United Negro College Fund.
The fund has been actively involved in development efforts in Liberia since the 1920s, including the funding of the Booker T. Washington Institute, a major Liberian center for technical education and training. Also during the 1920s, the fund ran a competition for the development of model tenement housing designs in New York City. In the 1930s and 1940s, it sponsored attempts to create the first “Negro” encyclopedia—a project that was under the direction of W. E. B. Du Bois.
During the first half of the twentieth century, the fund sent American educators to Africa to observe conditions firsthand, provide assistance, and help Americans better understand the origins of African Americans. Jackson Davis, for example, who was a field agent for the General Education Board, was sent by the fund to Africa in 1944. His travels eventually led to the publication of the book Africa Advancing. He later became the head of the Booker T. Washington Institute in Liberia. Davis was convinced that Africans had great potential for advancing socially and economically, provided they had access to the necessary education. Without the help of the fund, he almost certainly would not have gone to Africa.
The fund’s motto, “Education for Human Development,” has been realized through its efforts at conflict resolution, as an intellectual think tank, as an operating fund, as a service provider, as an advisor to other organizations, and as an advocate for marginalized groups.
- Berman, E. H. (1971). American influence on African education: The role of the Phelps Stokes Fund’s Education Commissions. Comparative Education Review, 15(2), 132–145.
- Davis, J., Campbell, T., & Wrong, M. (1945). Africa advancing: A study of rural education and agriculture in West Africa and the Belgian Congo. New York: Friendship Press.
- Phelps Stokes Fund: http://www.psfdc.org
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