UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The new frontier of American diplomacy : African decolonization, modernization, and the making of a civil rights narrative Chang, Vivien Lavinia


This thesis examines the growing importance of race to US relations with Africa in the context of decolonization, with a focus on the overseas effects of domestic racial problems and the ways in which American strategists sought to counter negative international opinion. It argues that Cold War concerns impelled American elites to craft a triumphalist narrative about the civil rights movement, which, in the course of the early 1960s, coalesced with theories of modernization to evolve into more concrete ideas about the need to repair the US image abroad. By analyzing presidential correspondence and speeches, newspaper editorials, United States Information Agency propaganda materials, and State Department reports, this paper reveals the twofold objectives of triumphalist development rhetoric, which bolstered the Kennedy administration’s modernizing ambitions in postcolonial Africa and informed the overseas representation of domestic racial developments.

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