Skip to main content

Maribel Morey: White Philanthropy

In this episode, Rhod talks to author and historian Maribel Morey about her new book White Philanthropy: Carnegie Corporation's 'An American Dilemma' and the Making of a White World Order. Including:

  • What is "An American Dilemma" and what role has it played in the history of thinking about race in the US?
  • What are some of the contemporary and subsequent critiques of the report?
  • Why do we need to re-evaluate the role of the Carnegie Corporation in shaping the development and eventual narrative of "An American Dilemma"?
  • How does the origin of "An American Dilemma" fit into the wider global context of imperialism at the time?
  • Is the role of the people who administer philanthropic wealth (the “philanthropoids”) too often underappreciated in historical study?
  • Were Carnegie Corporation figures like Frederick Keppel and James Betram genuinely trying to interpret Andrew Carnegie’s wishes as they understood them, or were they using their roles as amanuenses to impose their own views?
  • Can the Carnegie Corporation’s support for “An American Dilemma” be interpreted as a highly successful example of “upstream philanthropy” i.e. funding research or analysis that sets the parameters for public debate and policy formation?
  • Can we learn lessons today about how philanthropy can influence long-term change?
  • What can the example of Carnegie Corporation and "An American Dilemma" tell us about current debates over the tension between incrementalism and radicalism in philanthropy? 
  • Would it have been better in the long run if progressive foundations that pursued assimilationist approaches or which viewed racial equality as a process that involved Black Americans increasingly conforming to White norms had simply stayed away from race as an issue altogether?
  • How widespread and acceptable among philanthropists and foundations of the first half of the C20th was the view that eugenics and forced population control were part of the solution to the “race problem”?
  • Does there need to be more of a reckoning with this history?
  • What value can a historical perspective can bring to philanthropists, funders and non-profit professionals?
  • Are there limits to the utility of historical comparison in understanding the present? 

Related Links:

Learn from our past to better understand our future.

Philanthropy has a long and varied history. We’ve created bite-size chapters that you can jump in and out of to better understand philanthropy.