1954-1974 – Responsible Wealth

Building Identity and Intention

rallyWhen Anita McCormick Blaine chartered the New World Foundation in 1954, she was starkly aware of the enormous societal injustices of the time—

racial segregation, the right to vote, unsafe working conditions resulting from the industrial revolution, disease, educational disparity, the languishment of dissenters under the oppressive shadows of McCarthyism, and the overall inequitable experience of those Americans who were most flagrantly and persistently denied full participation in society.

The U.S. civil rights movement and subsequent quests for social equality that flowed from it, particularly in education, shaped the Foundation’s work during the 1950s and 1960s. Our early grantmaking supported dozens of civil rights organizations, such as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Urban League. We also began a lasting commitment to funding in the South, one of the few foundations willing to support beleaguered Southern efforts, to help launch the Southern Regional Council and its Voter Education Project.


NWF’s support of education at the time was focused on educational opportunity for disadvantaged individuals and on structural changes to reverse barriers based on race and class. NWF also focused on individual development and personal agency. This consisted of the improvement in, and the furthering of, the physical, mental, and moral development of children, including educational techniques and facilities and the training of teachers. John Dewey’s work played a significant role in this grantmaking agenda.

The vision has clear ideals: democracy and justice, peace and freedom, liberty and equality, solidarity and community.

As a result, NWF was part of establishment efforts of the Francis W. Parker School in Chicago, and the School of Education at the University of Chicago. The education project also served as a catalyst for aiding programs and experiments in early childhood education, new and creative curriculum and teaching procedures, and raising the level of professional education of teachers.

Three Oceans Converging

Through supporting social justice movements in the 1950s and 1960s, NWF staff and Board observed that participation and leadership from the bottom up are critical to truly sustaining and expanding democracy. NWF invested deeply in individuals and communities and sought influence over other heirs of great fortune to the same goals.