Rising Wind: Black Americans and U.S. Foreign Affairs, 1935-1960

Rising Wind: Black Americans and U.S. Foreign Affairs, 1935-1960

Rising Wind: Black Americans and U.S. Foreign Affairs, 1935-1960

Rising Wind: Black Americans and U.S. Foreign Affairs, 1935-1960


Brenda Gayle Plummer brings a new perspective to the study of twentieth-century American history with her analysis of black Americans' engagement with international issues, from the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 through the wave of African independence movements of the early 1960s. Plummer first examines how collective definitions of ethnic identity, race, and racism have influenced African American views on foreign affairs. She then probes specific developments in the international arena that galvanized the black community, including the rise of fascism, World War II, the emergence of human rights as a factor in international law, the Cold War, and the American civil rights movement, which had important foreign policy implications. However, she demonstrates that not all African Americans held the same views on particular issues and that a variety of considerations helped shape foreign affairs agendas within the black community just as in American society at large.


The Irishman and German in the United States, are very different persons to what they were when in Ireland and Germany, the countries of their nativity. There their spirits were depressed and downcast; but the instant they set their foot upon unrestricted soil; free to act and untrammeled to move; their physical condition undergoes a change, which in time becomes physiological, which is transmitted to the offspring, who when born under such circumstances, is a decidedly different being. -- Martin Delany, 1855

Race, Ethnicity, and U.S. Foreign Policy

To the nineteenth-century black leader Martin Delany, the transformation of Europeans into Americans was both immediate and tangible. American liberty, opportunity, and abundance produced new white men and women from the bitterness and oppressions of the immigrant past. No seachange awaited black Americans, however, "born under oppression." Delany exaggerated the rapidity and effect of acculturation, but his contrast between the immigrant and Afro-American experiences highlighted the cruel distinction between race and ethnicity in the creation of an American identity.

Ethnic difference was no insuperable barrier for whites who aspired to full citizenship. From time to time, nativist-inspired reformers sought to suppress foreign elements in American culture, but the United States retained a pluralist vitality in the survival of its distinct groups. Both social preference and social constraints perpetuated ethnicity. Ethnic groups survived when members married one another or stayed in the same place or because poverty and discrimination blocked their movement into the mainstream. the decision to preserve an ethnic identity could stem from either compulsion or choice.

Ethnicity is as much a social construction as race; it is an artifact of a particular configuration of intergroup relations. in the United States, ethnicity has taken on a specifically racial character. the many Spanish-speaking nationalities thus become "Hispanic," and diverse peoples ranging from Koreans to . . .

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