Human Rights Education: National Center for Human Rights Education

Ford Foundation



Case Study Sector


Until very recently, foundations either supported human rights work exclusively out of their international programs or had U.S. programs that did not fund human rights. This includes the Ford Foundation, which until seven years ago maintained separate programs for human and civil rights. In 1996, Susan Berresford, the foundation’s president, merged these units, which greatly facilitated the development of a more integrated approach to rights work. Today (2004) all of the issue-specific program areas within the foundation’s Human Rights Unit have both international and domestic components, with the human rights framework operating wherever appropriate as bridge between the two. This case is one of 13 in the volume Close to Home: Case Studies of Human Rights Work in the United States.

According to a 1997 poll commissioned by the National Center for Human Rights Education as part of the Ford Foundation’s Human Rights USA program, 92 percent of Americans had never heard of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the seminal human rights manifesto ratified by the United Nations in the aftermath of World War II. The need to overcome this awareness gap led Loretta Ross to create The National Center for Human Rights Education in 1996. It was the first human rights education center in the country focused specifically on social justice activists, educators and community leaders.



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