The Cold War And Its Effects On The Civil Rights Movement

1522 words - 7 pages

The Cold War and the Civil rights movement
With its leading role in the creation of the UN, the Truman Doctrine, as well as the Berlin Airlift; post – war United States sought to establish itself as the citadel of democracy and protector of the free people in the face of the expanding Communist sphere of influence throughout the world. There was however, a domestic issue that seemed to go against the professed ideals of democracy abroad; American institutionalized racism. The Cold war had numerous effects on the American Civil rights movement; starting with its exposure of American racist policies and actions onto the world stage and the following blow to American moral legitimacy abroad. ...view middle of the document...

The news spread across the world, and “In the Communist bloc, the press seized upon the story as compelling proof that American democracy was a sham.” (119). Vietnam also serves as an example of American racial issues at home taking an international stage. MLK, knowing that an open attack on the Vietnam war would alienate himself from the man who had signed the Civil Rights act (Slate, 10/22); speaks out against the hypocrisy of the war in regards to racial relations at home, “We
men... to guarantee
Harlem….” (Beyond Vietnam). As the grand majority of non – aligned nations were former colonies, highly sensible to racial issues, these attacks proved to be having a major impact on “ the anti –American or procommunist leaning of other nations” (Dudziak). The State department sought to change the domestic policies that put the US in this position. The Truman administration filed numerous amicus curie briefs in civil rights cases, where they “…focused on the negative impact on American foreign policy that a pro-segregation decision might have” (Dudziak). The success of this amicus brief campaign by the State department is best seen through the Brown vs. Board case, as the anti – segregation decision “helped to undercut the more powerful Anti – American arguments” (Dudziak). This Civil rights victory gave a major boost to US foreign policy, and brought hope for major change to the oppressed African Americans at home. However, something that has not been mentioned is the fact that American racism in the world stage increased the leverage of the Civil rights movement onto the federal government, and not at a local level. Unfortunately for many, particularly in the South, this “victory” had the complete opposite effect
Non – violent direct action had earned the Civil rights movement many victories at a federal level; however it failed to assure that these victories were also felt at a local level. The already established red scare paranoia, characterized by the fact that “many Americans equated support for racial equality with Communism” (Radio free Dixie, 64); was exacerbated by the Brown decision. KKK leaders “whipped crowds into a frenzy” (79) with rallies against race mixing and Communism. Instances of violence are numerous, ranging from assassinations to frequent “Dynamite attacks on black activists” (79); acts that led to disbanding of some NAACP branches. Southern youth “needed something more... the NAACP’s approach was too slow, too courteous, too differential, and too ineffectual” (145). Maoist thought emphasized that “revolutionary capacity of the peasantry was not dependent on the urban proletarian” (Black like Mao, 8) and China’s Great leap forward challenged “the idea that the march to socialism must take place in stages or that one must wait patiently for proper conditions” (39). In this aspect, Maoist thought deviated from the...

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