Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy / Edition 1

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Princeton Princeton Softcover 344 pages. Softcover. Brand new book. CIVIL RIGHTS. In 1958, an African-American handyman named Jimmy Wilson was sentenced to die in Alabama for ... stealing two dollars. Shocking as this sentence was, it was overturned only after intense international attention and the interference of an embarrassed John Foster Dulles. Soon after the United States' segregated military defeated a racist regime in World War II, American racism was a major concern of U.S. allies, a chief Soviet propaganda theme, and an obstacle to American Cold War goals throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Each lynching harmed foreign relations, and "the Negro problem" became a central issue in every administration from Truman to Lyndon Johnson. In what may be the best analysis of how international relations affected any domestic issue, Mary Dudziak interprets postwar civil rights as a Cold War feature. She argues that the Cold War helped facilitate key social reforms, including desegregation. Civil rights Read more Show Less

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Overview

In 1958, an African-American handyman named Jimmy Wilson was sentenced to die in Alabama for stealing two dollars. Shocking as this sentence was, it was overturned only after intense international attention and the interference of an embarrassed John Foster Dulles. Soon after the United States' segregated military defeated a racist regime in World War II, American racism was a major concern of U.S. allies, a chief Soviet propaganda theme, and an obstacle to American Cold War goals throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Each lynching harmed foreign relations, and "the Negro problem" became a central issue in every administration from Truman to Johnson.In what may be the best analysis of how international relations affected any domestic issue, Mary Dudziak interprets postwar civil rights as a Cold War feature. She argues that the Cold War helped facilitate key social reforms, including desegregation. Civil rights activists gained tremendous advantage as the government sought to polish its international image. But improving the nation's reputation did not always require real change. This focus on image rather than substance—combined with constraints on McCarthy-era political activism and the triumph of law-and-order rhetoric—limited the nature and extent of progress. Archival information, much of it newly available, supports Dudziak's argument that civil rights was Cold War policy. But the story is also one of people: an African-American veteran of World War II lynched in Georgia; an attorney general flooded by civil rights petitions from abroad; the teenagers who desegregated Little Rock's Central High; African diplomats denied restaurant service; black artists living in Europe and supporting the civil rights movement from overseas; conservative politicians viewing desegregation as a communist plot; and civil rights leaders who saw their struggle eclipsed by Vietnam. Never before has any scholar so directly connected civil rights and the Cold War. Contributing mightily to our understanding of both, Dudziak advances—in clear and lively prose—a new wave of scholarship that corrects isolationist tendencies in American history by applying an international perspective to domestic affairs.

Author Biography: Mary L. Dudziakis Professor of Law at the University of Southern California, where she teaches civil rights history and constitutional law. She has published widely on twentieth-century legal history and civil rights history.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of Cold War Studies
In her long-awaited book, Mary Dudziak brilliantly demonstrates the interconnections between race relations and the American response to the early Cold War. . . . Dudziak sets a new standard for literature on race and Cold War foreign policy. . . . Her work deserves a wide audience.
— Laura Belmonte
Harvard Law Review
This nuanced, scholarly appraisal of the relationship between foreign policy and the civil rights story offers a fresh and provocative perspective on twentieth-century American history.
American Lawyer
Groundbreaking.
Choice
Dudziak earns high praise for her superb work.
Reviews in American History
[An] important book
— H.W. Brands
Law and History Review
Cold War Civil Rights challenges readers to think globally and locally about the relation between the Cold War and civil rights. It also provides food for thought on the post-Cold War era.
— Laurie B. Green
Education Supplement
A meticulously researched and eloquently composed study.
— Desmond King
Ethnic & Racial Studies
Dudziak has marshalled an impressive array of primary source material to substantiate her case, but is is never allowed to hinder the unfolding narrative of the civil rights movement in general or her thesis in particular. . . . [An] excellent study.
— George Lewis
American Historical Review
An intelligent and informative book that is sure to become a staple of both civil rights and Cold War historiography.
— Steven F. Lawson
Human Rights Quarterly
Dudziak marvelously frames her discussion of the US civil rights movement in the international and Cold War context in such a way that raises, discusses, and illuminates larger issues that help us to understand how the struggle for human rights proceeds.
— Carlo Krieger
American Quarterly
Dudziak's argument is clearly written, prodigiously researched, and profoundly important. . . . Cold War Civil Rights . . . is the most comprehensively researched study of the connection between foreign and domestic racial politics in the post-World War II era. Dudziak's book will inspire a reconsideration of postwar civil rights history.
— Alex Lubin
The Washington Times
Mary L. Dudziak . . . astutely explores the intimate relationship between the policy of communist containment and the civil rights movement. . . . Her book thoughtfully and thoroughly documents how ridiculous and hypocritical we appeared to the post-colonial, newly emerging nations of Africa and Asia by championing the ideals of freedom, democracy and economic equity around the world while at the same time shamelessly denying access to those very same principles to millions of Americans at home.
— Edward C. Smith
Library Journal
Analyzing the impact of Cold War foreign affairs on U.S. civil rights reform, Dudziak (law and civil rights history, Univ. of Southern California) contends that civil rights crises became foreign affairs crises and that continuing racial injustice in the United States was not in America's best interest because the Soviet Union used the race issue prominently in anti-American propaganda. Dudziak draws upon a variety of primary sources, particularly newly available archival resources, as well as secondary sources to demonstrate that the Cold War instituted a constraining environment for domestic politics and thereby facilitated some major social reforms, such as desegregation. The strength of the book is in its details and in the sensitive discussions of victims of American post-World War II racism. Carefully reasoned, containing vivid accounts, and thoroughly documented with illustrations and 55 pages of explanatory notes, this work helps us to rethink the familiar by analyzing the subject matter from a new perspective. It will have broad appeal to historians, other academicians, and lay readers interested in American foreign policy and race relations and is a useful supplement to Michael L. Krenn's The Impact of Race on U.S. Foreign Policy (Garland, 1999).--Edward G. McCormack, Univ. of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Lib., Long Beach Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A persuasive if occasionally overstated argument that the Cold War played a crucial role in advancing civil rights in the United States. Noting that in a seminal 1944 book Gunnar Myrdal defined the contradictions between racism and the ideology of democracy as the quintessentially American dilemma, Dudziak (Law/Univ. of Southern California) goes on to describe how this dilemma became part of the Cold War struggle. She is especially concerned with years immediately following the end of WWII, when Communism seemed a threat to democracy and virulent racism still prevailed in the South. It was also a time of anti-imperialism, a period when many colonies saw the treatment of American blacks as further evidence of white racism. In making her case, Dudziak details the increasing international attention paid in the late 1940s and '50s to such occurrences as Governor Faubus's resistance to integration in Little Rock; the denial of services to visiting African black dignitaries; and the 1958 sentencing to death in Alabama of black Jimmy Wilson, who stole less than two dollars. This sentence provoked international outrage and the intervention of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, which resulted in clemency for Wilson. The Soviet Union used these examples to castigate the US in particular and democracy in general, with the result that presidents from Truman on began implementing legislation to end segregation. Dudziak quotes influential policymakers like Secretary of State Dean Acheson, who observed that"the damage to our foreign relations attributable to [race discrimination] has become progressively greater," but her frequent reliance on such minor sources as the Fijian and Welshpressundercuts her case. Graceless prose and the author's failure to put foreign criticism in context make this assessment of an important crossroads in American history less compelling than it should be.
From the Publisher
"In her long-awaited book, Mary Dudziak brilliantly demonstrates the interconnections between race relations and the American response to the early Cold War. . . . Dudziak sets a new standard for literature on race and Cold War foreign policy. . . . Her work deserves a wide audience."—Laura Belmonte, Journal of Cold War Studies

"This nuanced, scholarly appraisal of the relationship between foreign policy and the civil rights story offers a fresh and provocative perspective on twentieth-century American history."—Harvard Law Review

"Groundbreaking."—American Lawyer

"Carefully reasoned, containing vivid accounts, and thoroughly documented with illustrations and 55 pages of explanatory notes, this work helps us rethink the familiar by analyzing the subject matter from a new perspective. It will have broad appeal to historians, other academicians and lay readers interested in American foreign policy and race relations . . ."—Library Journal

"Mary L. Dudziak . . . astutely explores the intimate relationship between the policy of communist containment and the civil rights movement. . . . Her book thoughtfully and thoroughly documents how ridiculous and hypocritical we appeared to the post-colonial, newly emerging nations of Africa and Asia by championing the ideals of freedom, democracy and economic equity around the world while at the same time shamelessly denying access to those very same principles to millions of Americans at home."—Edward C. Smith, The Washington Times

"Dudziak earns high praise for her superb work."—Choice

"[An] important book"—H.W. Brands, Reviews in American History

"Cold War Civil Rights challenges readers to think globally and locally about the relation between the Cold War and civil rights. It also provides food for thought on the post-Cold War era."—Laurie B. Green, Law and History Review

"A meticulously researched and eloquently composed study."—Desmond King, Education Supplement

"Dudziak has marshalled an impressive array of primary source material to substantiate her case, but is is never allowed to hinder the unfolding narrative of the civil rights movement in general or her thesis in particular. . . . [An] excellent study."—George Lewis, Ethnic & Racial Studies
"An intelligent and informative book that is sure to become a staple of both civil rights and Cold War historiography."—Steven F. Lawson, American Historical Review

"Civil rights activists' efforts were watched carefully by the nation and by the world, and now are described and analyzed for us all with masterful skill by Mary Dudziak in Cold War Civil Rights. Although the Cold War is over, race remains a critical feature of global politics. As recent events remind us so well, much appears to be tied loosely with the destiny of democracy in the United States and the way that the country is seen by a diverse and divided world. In understanding this process, the issues at stake, the roles that individuals play, and the implications for human rights, Cold War Civil Rights will provide enormous assistance."—Paul Gordon Lauren, Human Rights Quarterly

"Dudziak marvelously frames her discussion of the US civil rights movement in the international and Cold War context in such a way that raises, discusses, and illuminates larger issues that help us to understand how the struggle for human rights proceeds."—Carlo Krieger, Human Rights Quarterly

"Dudziak's argument is clearly written, prodigiously researched, and profoundly important. . . . Cold War Civil Rights . . . is the most comprehensively researched study of the connection between foreign and domestic racial politics in the post-World War II era. Dudziak's book will inspire a reconsideration of postwar civil rights history."—Alex Lubin, American Quarterly

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Product Details

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction

Chapter 1: Coming to Terms with Cold War Civil Rights

Chapter 2: Telling Stories about Race and Democracy

Chapter 3: Fighting the Cold War with Civil Rights Reform

Chapter 4: Holding the Line in Little Rock

Chapter 5: Losing Control in Ca,elot

Chapter 6: Shifting the Focus of America's Image Abroad

Conclusion

Notes

Acknowledgments

Index

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