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January 15, 2010

David Rockefeller pledges $1 million to support African American initiatives

David Rockefeller, the youngest son of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s founder, John D. Rockefeller Jr., has pledged $1 million to help meet a National Endowment for the Humanities challenge grant for African American programming. The gift comes as Colonial Williamsburg observes its 30th anniversary of African American history interpretation. The 2007 NEH We The People Challenge provides $1, up to a total of $1 million, for every $3 Colonial Williamsburg secures in matching donations. Colonial Williamsburg will use the resulting $4 million endowment to continue and enhance the foundation’s African American initiatives in research, educational and interpretive activities.

“David Rockefeller, a long time Colonial Williamsburg supporter, takes particular pleasure in making generous gifts in situations where he is confident they will make a difference,” said Colin Campbell, Colonial Williamsburg’s president and CEO. “Several years ago he established a $5 million endowment to assure that Historic Area programming would be constantly renewed and refreshed. That support has been particularly valuable in the ongoing development of Revolutionary City offerings. This current gift will not only support an expansion of African American offerings which are so central to the stories we tell at Colonial Williamsburg, it also will encourage others to help us complete the NEH Challenge Grant. This is another example of Mr. Rockefeller’s enlightened philanthropy and of his deep affection for this place he first visited with his father on the eve of the restoration more than 80 years ago.”

David Rockefeller’s association with Colonial Williamsburg began in March 1926 when he and his four older brothers, mother and father visited Williamsburg briefly during a trip to Hampton Institute, now Hampton University. During their Williamsburg stopover, then 11-year-old David charmed Rev. William A. R. Goodwin, the rector of Bruton Parish Church who envisioned the restoration of the colonial capital. The bond between Goodwin and young David was so compelling that the senior Rockefeller signed “David’s Father” on his correspondence to Goodwin in an effort to maintain anonymity during the first years of the restoration.

As the result of the Rockefeller gift, the foundation’s effort to meet the matching requirement of the challenge grant, which was led off by a $500,000 commitment from Doug Morton and Marilyn Brown of Denver, Colo., is well past the halfway mark.

When fully funded, the endowment will:

  • provide funds to strengthen African American interpretation throughout the Historic Area,
  • underpin the application of research to our work in public history,
  • enable public forums for the discussion of African American history and related issues,
  • support programs and materials tailored to the needs of teachers, and
  • facilitate exhibitions and development of Web-based resources for the general public.

    Colonial Williamsburg began programmatic interpretation of slavery and the 18th-century African American experience in 1979 at a time when few mainstream history museums addressed the subject. Beginning with a small cadre of first-person portrayals of enslaved residents of 18th-century Williamsburg, Colonial Williamsburg has steadily enhanced and expanded its portrayals and interpretations of the African American experience, and — by example — encouraged similar institutions to follow its lead.

    Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women.

    Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

    Media Contact:
    Tom Shrout
    (757) 220-7265

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