In This Review

Window on Freedom: Race, Civil Rights, and Foreign Affairs, 1945-1988
Window on Freedom: Race, Civil Rights, and Foreign Affairs, 1945-1988
Edited by Brenda Gayle Plummer
University of North Carolina Press, 2003, 272 pp

Each contributor to this first-rate collection examines how the movement for racial equality in America can be better understood if placed in the context of competitive international relations. Most chapters highlight the first two postwar decades, when a complex and halting process of triangulation developed between Washington policymakers, race-focused domestic constituencies from right to left, and foreign critics. The authors argue that domestic calls for reform proved largely unavailing until America's international image and prestige came under withering fire from newly independent African and Asian countries in the fledgling United Nations and exposure of American hypocrisies about race handed the Soviet Union a powerful Cold War card. Specific topics include the impact of Gunnar Myrdal's 1944 classic An American Dilemma, the waning international traction of white supremacist ideologies, shifting attitudes toward Europe's postwar "brown babies," the "unwelcome mat" put out for African diplomats in metropolitan Washington, and the political reverberations of Bandung and Birmingham. Rich footnoting makes this work a very good resource for students of racial factors in international relations.