Prologue
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PROLOGUE This volume crystallizes the notion that African Americans have long been cognizant of the racial, cultural, ideological, and political nexus of domestic and international politics. It shows that black participation in foreign affairs and foreign policy has achieved mixed results with a ray of optimism . Presented herein is a unique and timely collection of essays that focus on the contemporary issues, problems, and practices associated with the varied nature of African American global participation. The quality of black participation in world affairs and in U.S. foreign policymaking is due to the group’s unique historical experience. Much credit is owed to the struggle for civil rights since it led to the breakdown of the institutional pillars of white supremacy, which forbade black social participation. The movement resulted in some fundamental social advancements, notably, passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965; the latter aimed squarely at obliterating remaining legal barriers to the right of black citizens to vote. However, as Carol Anderson pointed out, “The ‘prize’ they sought was not civil rights, it was human rights.” It is ironic, therefore, that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (naacp), under attack by southern anticommunists, had to shift focus to a more limited civil rights platform—one that was less subject to a Cold War–based ideological and political assault. Thus, this contraction led to the evolution of a rights- and material-based struggle at the domestic level, emphasizing the acquisition of political and economic civil rights. The assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 brought the civil rights movement virtually to a halt. The result was the retardation of the movement’s evolution to a struggle of global import more broadly focused on human rights. As some of the authors in this volume suggest, political and social development throughout the African Diaspora, and particularly in Africa, was detrimentally impacted by the decline of the civil rights movement. Although the subsequent era of black power became a model for radical social change through the world, the harsh exercise of U.S. state police power hastily facilitated the movement’s demise in the domestic arena. xi Prologue xii The relevance of foreign affairs and foreign policymaking for the standing of African Americans at home and abroad is shown by their active and creative involvement in the world political arena. In a compelling essay that expands on some of the contemporary themes presented in this book, Ronald W. Walters in chapter 1 argues that a black interest in foreign affairs does indeed exist and that it is salient. He maintains that black participation in foreign affairs and foreign policy matters for several reasons: African Americans and their organizations played path-breaking roles; their participation has worked as a monitor of democracy in foreign affairs; and their participation has been a struggle for justice through the opposition to U.S. foreign policy. Walters highlights the decline in black interest in foreign affairs and assesses the probability of a shift toward racial foreign policy justice in light of the election of Barack Obama to the American presidency. Chapter 2 presents a conceptualization of the foreign affairs participation of African Americans, and applies this framework to investigate the Congressional Black Caucus and TransAfrica Forum. It identifies the formal and informal dimensions of black global participation, and investigates the effect of the issues, domestic environment, global climate, and the strategies and tactics employed to gain insight into the motivations, means, and results of these two groups’ efforts to influence foreign affairs and U.S. foreign policymaking. Ronald Williams II in chapter 3 examines the general role and impact of African American political organizations on Africa. He chronicles some of the ways in which African Americans, through political organizations and domestic and transnational social movement activities, have connected themselves with the politics of continental Africa. African Americans ’ engagement with African affairs evolved extensively from the first reverberations of Pan-Africanism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In chapter 4, William G. Jones provides a meticulous account of the behavior of members of Congress in foreign policymaking related to the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (agoa). In particular, he investigates race and business interests as competing, conflicting, and consolidating influences. Jones concludes that African Americans have called agoa’s value into question and that the legislation has been detrimental to apparel workers in the United States and in Africa. Indeed, a hallmark of politics...



Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Politics and government.
  • African American politicians.
  • African American legislators.
  • Political participation.
  • World politics
  • International relations.
  • United States -- Politics and government.
  • United States -- Foreign relations.
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