The history of the Black Power movement offers a cautionary tale about the warping effects of liberal philanthropy’s soft power.
Karen Ferguson is associate professor of history and urban studies at Simon Fraser University and author of Top Down: The Ford Foundation, Black Power, and the Reinvention of Racial Liberalism and Black Politics in New Deal Atlanta.
The 1968 Ocean Hill-Brownsville teachers strikes pitted teachers and parents against each other. But they didn’t have to. Teachers and parents today can avoid those past mistakes and create coalitions against racism and austerity.
Black activists might have initiated the fight for community control in Ocean Hill-Brownsville in 1968. But the Ford Foundation not only played a key role in the idea’s conception; they shaped its execution according to elite, liberal aims.