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Human Rights and the Negotiation of American Power

By Glenn Mitoma

Publication Year: 2013

The American attitude toward human rights is deemed inconsistent, even hypocritical: while the United States is characterized (or self-characterized) as a global leader in promoting human rights, the nation has consistently restrained broader interpretations of human rights and held international enforcement mechanisms at arm's length. Human Rights and the Negotiation of American Power examines the causes, consequences, and tensions of America's growth as the leading world power after World War II alongside the flowering of the human rights movement. Through careful archival research, Glenn Mitoma reveals how the U.S. government, key civil society groups, Cold War politics, and specific individuals contributed to America's emergence as an ambivalent yet central player in establishing an international rights ethic.

Mitoma focuses on the work of three American civil society organizations: the Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the American Bar Association—and their influence on U.S. human rights policy from the late 1930s through the 1950s. He demonstrates that the burgeoning transnational language of human rights provided two prominent United Nations diplomats and charter members of the Commission on Human Rights—Charles Malik and Carlos Romulo—with fresh and essential opportunities for influencing the position of the United States, most particularly with respect to developing nations. Looking at the critical contributions made by these two men, Mitoma uncovers the unique causes, tensions, and consequences of American exceptionalism.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights


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pp. C-iii


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pp. iv-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-x

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Introduction: Human Rights Hegemony in the American Century

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pp. 1-16

America resembles a huge giant who is just beginning to wake up to the fact that he is not alone nor can be left alone in the world, that he must try to get along with others who have been there all the time and who in fact are now pressing on him, and that in this necessary and sudden association something, perhaps something big, is expected of him. He is just beginning ...

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1 The Study of Peace, Human Rights, and International Organization

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pp. 17-43

Signed by representatives from fifty- one nations on June 26, 1945, the UN Charter placed a commitment to international human rights at the core of the organization’s raison d’être. The second stanza of the preamble proclaims an abiding “faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.” Among its four main purposes, the charter holds...

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2 A Pacific Charter

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pp. 44-73

A month after the United States entered World War II, a small group of Americans sent President Franklin Roosevelt a private telegram detailing the need for the United States to embrace war aims and policies that were more definitively antiracist and anti- imperialist. The telegram was signed by five longtime supporters of a more egalitarian racial order both domestically...

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3 Carlos Romulo, Freedom of Information, and the Philippine Pattern

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pp. 74-102

Carlos Romulo left San Francisco buoyant about the future. The new United Nations Organization was far from perfect, but he believed the charter and the process by which it was negotiated signaled the advent of a new global order. As he had told his fellow UNCIO delegates at the closing plenary session, “the fact that fifty nations, representing perhaps fifty basic ...

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4 Charles Malik, the International Bill of Rights, and Ultimate Things

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pp. 103-133

Shortly after the conclusion of the first session of the United Nations General Assembly, members of the U.S. delegation submitted a memorandum to the State Department detailing their assessment of the “politics and personnel” of the UN. Lebanese representative Dr. Charles H. Malik, they reported, had become considerably more skilled as a diplomat since the San ...

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5 The NAACP, the ABA, and the Logic of Containment

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pp. 134-169

Shortly before the start of the 1948 General Assembly session that would see the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, U.S. secretary of state George Marshall received a memorandum from his newly established Policy Planning Staff. Intended to offer broad, strategic analysis and advice in developing postwar foreign policies, the office was short- lived...

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Conclusion: Toward Universal Human Rights

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pp. 170-176

On June 11, 1960, Charles Malik took the stage before a small audience in Williamsburg, Virginia. After fifteen years of diplomatic and government service, he had just returned to the academic life that he regarded as his true calling, teaching philosophy as a visiting professor at Dartmouth during the spring semester. In Williamsburg, however, he was billed as a former...


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pp. 177-220


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pp. 221-224


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pp. 225-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780812208030
E-ISBN-10: 081220803X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812245066
Print-ISBN-10: 0812245067

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights
Series Editor Byline: Bert B. Lockwood, Jr., Series Editor See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 859160689
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Human Rights and the Negotiation of American Power

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Subject Headings

  • Human rights -- History -- 20th century.
  • United Nations. General Assembly. Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Hegemony -- United States.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- 20th century.
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