Frederick P. Keppel

Under Frederick P. Keppel, president from 1923 to 1941, Carnegie Corporation shifted from the creation of public libraries to strengthening library infrastructure, services, and training and building the field of adult education, adding arts education to the array of programs in colleges and universities. The foundation's grantmaking during this period was marked by a certain eclecticism and a remarkable perseverance in its chosen causes.

Keppel was behind the famous study of race relations in the United States by the Swedish social economist Gunnar Myrdal, deliberately appointing, in 1937, an "outsider" and a non-American to manage the study on the theory that the task should be undertaken by a fresh mind unencumbered by traditional attitudes or earlier conclusions. Widely heralded, Myrdal's book American Dilemma (1944) had no immediate public policy impact, although it was later heavily cited in legal challenges to segregation. Keppel believed foundations should make the facts available to the public and let them speak for themselves. His cogent writings about philanthropy left a lasting impression on the foundation field and influenced the organization and leadership of many new foundations.

In 1927 Keppel toured sub-Saharan Africa and recommended the first set of grants to establish public schools in East and southern Africa. Other grants were made for municipal library development in South Africa. In 1928 the Corporation launched the Carnegie Commission on the Poor White Problem in South Africa. Better known as the "Carnegie Poor White Study," it served to promote strategies for improving the position of rural Afrikaner whites. (The poverty, oppression, and political exclusion of South African blacks were explicitly addressed in the grant programs and in a second Carnegie inquiry during the late 1970s and early 1980s.)

Text courtesy of Carnegie Collections at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University