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 substancecombined with constraints on McCarthy-era political activism and the triumph of law-and-order rhetoriclimited 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 advancesin clear and lively prosea new wave of scholarship that corrects isolationist tendencies in American history by applying an international perspective to domestic affairs.
In her new preface, Dudziak discusses the way the Cold War figures into civil rights history, and details this book's origins, as one question about civil rights could not be answered without broadening her research from domestic to international influences on American history.
Mary L. Dudziak is professor of law, history, and political science at the University of Southern California. Her books include Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey, September 11 in History, and Legal Borderlands.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations xiiiPreface to the 2011 Edition xvINTRODUCTION 3CHAPTER 1: Coming to Terms with Cold War Civil Rights 18CHAPTER 2: Telling Stories about Race and Democracy 47CHAPTER 3: Fighting the Cold War with Civil Rights Reform 79CHAPTER 4: Holding the Line in Little Rock 115CHAPTER 5: Losing Control in Camelot 152CHAPTER 6: Shifting the Focus of America’s Image Abroad 203CONCLUSION 249Notes 255Acknowledgments 311Index 317
What People are Saying About This
Elaine Tyler May
This book is a tour de force. Dudziak's brilliant analysis shows that the Cold War had a profound impact on the civil rights movement. Hers is the first book to make this important connection. It is a major contribution to our understanding of both the Civil Rights movement and the Cold War itself. . . . Because it is beautifully written in clear, lively prose, and draws its analysis from dramatic events and compelling stories of people involved from the top level of government to the grass roots, it will be an outstanding book for both students and the general public. I recommend it with no hesitation and with great enthusiasm. Elaine Tyler May, author of "Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era"
Reinhold Niebuhr once commented that blacks cannot count on the altruism of whites for improvements in blacks' condition. Readers who think Niebuhr's remark was unfair to whites need to read this book. Mary Dudziak documents, in impressive detail, how the self-interest of elite whites instigated, shaped, and limited civil rights gains for blacks during the Cold War years. Raises serious questions about the future of racial justice in America. Richard Delgado, Jean Lindsley Professor of Law, University of Colorado
This book reflects a growing interest among historians in the global significance of race. . . . It is accessible and will have multiple uses as an approach to civil rights history, as an examination of policy making, and as a model of how a study can be attentive to both foreign and domestic aspects of a particular issue. It is tightly argued, coherent, and polished, and it features some particularly fine writing. Brenda Plummer, author of "Rising Wind: Black Americans and U.S. Foreign Affairs, 1935-1960"
Meticulously researched and beautifully written, Mary Dudziak's book makes a spectacularly illuminating contribution to a subject traditionally neglectedthe linkage between race relations and foreign policy: neither African-American history nor diplomatic history will be the same again. Gerald Horne, author of "Race Woman: The Lives of Shirley Graham Du Bois"