Ford Foundation Rallies Behind 1619 Project Creator

Foundation has donated millions to Chinese universities

July 7, 2021

One of the top funders of New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones's new teaching position at Howard University has donated millions to Chinese state universities.

The Ford Foundation was listed as a key funder in establishing the Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at Howard University, which will be filled by Hannah-Jones, the creator of the Times's 1619 Project. But the foundation's interests in higher education extend beyond America's borders. The liberal nonprofit has given more than $2 million to top Chinese universities, including close partners with the regime's military, according to the group's federal tax filings from 2014 to 2018.

The foundation claims one of its goals is "advancing human dignity around the world," yet it has given more than $74,000 to Beijing Zhiliao Social Work Development Center, which has worked with the Chinese Communist Party’s Ministry of Civil Affairs. The ministry's purpose is "to manage registration and monitor social groups, funds, and private non-enterprise units," among other domestic activities, and is run by high-ranking CCP leader Li Jiheng, who formerly served as the secretary of inner Mongolia. Under Li's tenure, a Mongolian historian of the disastrous Cultural Revolution was censored and put on indefinite house arrest, Mongolian schools were shut down, and protesting herders were sentenced to years in prison.

In recent years in the region, the Chinese government has sought, "[to] change the teaching medium of several classes from Mongolian to Mandarin Chinese throughout the nine years of compulsory schooling." They have also pressured foreign groups to remove historical references to "Genghis Khan" and "Mongols."

The Ford Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.

The Chinese government has noticed the Ford Foundation’s efforts. In 2018, Hilary Pennington, executive vice president of the Ford Foundation, met with Deng Boqing, the vice chairman of the China International Development Cooperation Agency, which coordinates China’s foreign aid. The vice chairman expressed appreciation for the Ford Foundation, and Pennington promised to further cooperate with China on social and economic development issues, specifically in Africa.

The foundation is now rallying behind Hannah-Jones's controversial and disputed scholarship. It called Hannah-Jones and jointly appointed faculty member Ta-Nehisi Coates "change-makers" who are "helping create a more just American future." Hannah-Jones announced Tuesday on CBS that she would turn down a tenure position at the University of North Carolina.