11.10.2020

From Black Power to Broken Windows: Liberal Philanthropy and the Carceral State

During the 1960s, the Ford Foundation was one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the United States. This article examines the shifting strategies which Ford deployed in an attempt to tackle urban disorder in U.S. cities between 1965 and 1982.

From 1966 to 1969, Ford engaged in a series of experimental projects which sought to dampen unrest through “community action” and grassroots mobilization, many of which required working with Black Power organizations. Yet, after this generated considerable political controversy, the foundation shifted toward funding liberal police reform, establishing the Police Foundation in 1970, a Washington-based organization whose research provided the intellectual underpinning for “Broken Windows” policing.

Studying the Ford Foundation’s programming during this period can illuminate the understudied contribution of liberal philanthropy to the rise of the carceral state, as well as the connections between the grassroots anti-poverty efforts of the 1960s and the punitive turn of the 1970s.

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