Cold War Civil Rights Mary Dudziak Summary

“Birmingham had focused the world’s attention on racial brutality in America, resolving problems on the local level would not fully resolve the crisis… [It] required a global, as well as local, response.” (171) Mary L. Dudziak’s Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy offers a unique perspective on, what is arguably America’s greatest achievement, the civil rights movement. Rather than portraying the story fully through American eyes, Dudziak chooses to offer readers a view through international eyes as well. In doing so, she uncovers a link revealing how impactful foreign relations were on our leaders’ decisions to support the civil rights movement. In a time when “domestic civil rights crises would quickly become …show more content…
After eliminating the world from the threat of Nazi Germany and extricating the Jews, America’s global position had rose once more. Not only was America a global power, but it was also the world’s promoter of democracy. In the years immediately following the war America’s foreign involvement transformed from fighting fascism to communism. In the face of its new enemy, America’s leaders attempted to combat the issue through promoting democracy across the globe. However, they faced a glaring problem. To the leaders abroad it seemed America did not govern by the same type of democracy it promoted. To foreign leaders, America’s democracy did not promote equality and liberation for all races. International perspectives, such as these, affected “the nation’s ability to maintain its leadership role, and particularly to ensure that democracy would be appealing to newly independent nations in Asia and Africa.” (6) America’s second-class treatment of African Americans had finally reached an international audience. Why did it take so long for the rest of the world to take notice? As Dudziak states, “When we talk of freedom and opportunity for all nations the mocking paradoxes in our own society become so clear they can no longer be ignored.” …show more content…
Beginning with Harry Truman, the “president who put civil rights firmly on the nation’s agenda” and ending with Lydon B. Johnson, Dudzaik’s chronological retelling of the events will shed new light on the federal government’s decision to finally intervene on behalf of the movement. Rather than a movement simply beginning as a grassroots issue and gaining steam through local and national politics, Dudzaik shows how “domestic racism and civil rights protest led to international criticism… International criticism led the federal government to respond.” (13) These responses would be witnessed by the world through the decisions made by the Supreme Court and passage of legislation, such as The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, aimed at opposing American segregation. In closing, Duzaik’s book is a fantastic addition to the civil rights and Cold War periods. Cold War Civil Rights doesn’t only offer a look at how international politics can affect domestic issues in a country, but it also contains many morals and lessons within the book. The most important of these – if one must feel inclined to lead, then one must lead by example. By forcing America’s government to change its views and involvement on race issues, our foreign relations actually forced America to

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