By Michael Seltzer, Trustee, EMpower-The Emerging Markets Foundation, and past President, Philanthropy New York
Social Justice—A New Phenomenon?
No. As early as 1972, in an internal memo to John H. Knowles, the President of the Rockefeller Foundation, one of his officers suggested that the foundation use the phrase “Towards Social Justice in an Interdependent World” as a “unifying theme” to describe its work.
Also, in the 1970s, select small- to medium-sized family, independent and public foundations embraced the practice, language and ethos of social justice, as evidenced by their early support of the U.S. civil rights movement. Their ranks included such private foundations as Norman, Field, Stern, New World, Taconic, and the John Hay Whitney. Subsequently, the public foundations that comprised the Funding Exchange Network—the Tides Foundation; women’s and LGBT funders such as the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice; and the Black United Fund movement—joined their ranks. David Hunter, Stern’s long-term Executive Director, served as a mentor and guide for many of these funds. The word justice also appeared in the literature of religiously affiliated grantmakers such as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development of the U.S. Catholic Bishops and the Jewish Fund for Justice. This was not surprising, since the precepts of justice are evident in the world’s major religions and sacred texts.