LAFF Society


The Ford Foundation in South Africa


     Nelson Mandela after his release from prison.


In 1953 the Ford Foundation gave $50,000 to the South Africa Institute of Race Relations for educational and research activities, beginning an enduring commitment that has contributed significantly to that country’s often painful but relentless passage out of oppression.

“We have helped strengthen the ability of local communities to advance their own aspirations for dignity, justice and equality,” states the Foundation in a historical survey of its activities in that country. 
“When our work in the region started…five years of apartheid had already isolated South Africa from the rest of the world. We began by providing fellowships for scholars, funding research that rigorously documented and exposed the devastating impact of South Africa’s racial policies….In the 1960s, as South Africa’s isolation deepened, our grantees kept a spotlight on repressive policies and enabled dissenting voices to be heard.”
Soweto uprising, June 16, 1976.
In this issue we present three articles that provide detailed background on Foundation activities in South Africa, written by staff members who were there, helping shape Foundation policies over the last several decades and supporting those South Africans, the country’s “dissenting voices”, who were most influential in their country’s successful progression to independence and freedom.
The first article explores the Foundation’s role in pioneering human rights in South Africa, the second describes the development of local Black leadership and the third , written ten years ago, sees reconciliation, forgiveness and remembrance in a “post-apartheid miracle”. 
The Ford Foundation in South Africa
Pioneering Human Rights by Sheila Avrin McLean



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