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Claire Dunning receives grant to analyze how race and politics shaped philanthropy in the United States

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Claire Dunning Spotlight

Through the Independent Scholarship, Research and Creativity Awards (ISRCA), Assistant Professor Claire Dunning received a $10,000 grant to study “Funding Black Power: Race, Philanthropy, and the Politics of Social Impact.” The award, a new funding opportunity through the University of Maryland Division of Research, supports faculty pursuing independent scholarly and/or creative projects.

The ISRCA program is designed specifically to assist faculty engaged in research and creative projects that:

  • use historical, humanistic, interpretive, or ethnographic approaches;
  • explore aesthetic, ethical, and/or cultural values and their roles in society; 
  • conduct critical or rhetorical analysis; engage in archival and/or field research; 
  • or develop or produce creative works.

Dunning’s project will analyze how race and politics shaped philanthropy in the United States through a history of a short-lived experiment in Boston in the late 1960s and early 1970s that linked white suburbanites and black power activists. Dunning states that this is important because too few considerations of philanthropy lead with questions about race and the ways it has shaped not only the accumulation of wealth in the United States but also the ways in which it was distributed philanthropically.

“I hope this research reinforces the point that we cannot talk about philanthropy without talking about race in the United States,” Dunning says. “This project demonstrates the ways in which who makes decisions about funding matters and can have short and long-term impacts for communities and social movements. I also hope a key takeaway is that the study of the past can be useful for our activities in the present and the future.” 

Dunning and her fellow awardees were selected based on peer review of the quality of the proposed project, the degree to which the project leads professional advancement, and the potential academic and societal impact of the project. Dunning has conducted numerous research projects on race and philanthropy in the past, many of which are nationally recognized. 

“This funding will provide me the resources and time to finish up the research, write and revise it into a journal article, and submit it for publication,” she explains. “Moving this project along will, I hope, shed new light on questions of importance, but also serve me as a junior faculty member as I approach tenure. I am really quite grateful to the University and for the support of colleagues at SPP.”


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