Young Americans might take for granted the presence of African Americans in high-level U.S. foreign policy circles; after all, the U.S. president and his national security adviser are black, and in the past decade, two African Americans have served as U.S. secretary of state. But it has been a long road, as this useful collection of essays by noted scholars reveals with its in-depth look at the history of African American international engagement going back to Frederick Douglass’ service as the U.S. minister to Haiti. One theme that links these essays is the difficult line African Americans have had to walk: on the one hand, they represent the government and people of the United States; on the other, they belong to a racial minority that has suffered greatly from both informal and legally sanctioned discrimination—and worse. Another common theme is the continuing hold of Africa on the imaginations of black Americans: one should expect the continuing rise of African Americans in the nation’s foreign policy establishment to result in closer ties between the United States and the countries of Africa.
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