In This Review

The Cold War and the Cold Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena
The Cold War and the Cold Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena
By Thomas Borstelmann
Harvard University Press, 2002, 384 pp

As the United States led the Cold War campaign for freedom and democracy, it also struggled with its own civil rights failings. Many observers have previously noted the connections between these two great dramas, but Borstelmann pulls this fascinating and important story together. How did American leaders, who believed the United States was superior to Soviet and Chinese communist alternatives, reconcile that conviction with the racial injustice in their own land? Borstelmann argues that the dilemmas for U.S. leaders were especially acute because the American civil rights movement was tied to the rise of postwar anticolonialism in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East -- all struggles against the traditions of white supremacy that triumphed in the shadow of the Cold War. Tracing the efforts of American presidents from Harry Truman to George H.W. Bush, the author describes how the United States tried to build a broad, multiracial, anticommunist international coalition to encourage gradual change with a minimum of provocation. But he is more successful in identifying the ways in which the Cold War served to expose America's racial injustices and pressure its leaders to respond.