Race against Empire
Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937–1957
Winner of the 1998 Stuart L. Bernath Book Prize (Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations)
Winner of the Myers Outstanding Book Award (Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America)
Marshaling evidence from a wide array of international sources, including the black presses of the time, Penny M. Von Eschen offers a vivid portrayal of the African diaspora in its international heyday, from the 1945 Manchester Pan-African Congress to early cooperation with the United Nations. Tracing the relationship between transformations in anti-colonial politics and the history of the United States during its emergence as the dominant world power, she challenges bipolar Cold War paradigms. She documents the efforts of African-American political leaders, intellectuals, and journalists who forcefully promoted anti-colonial politics and critiqued U.S. foreign policy.
The eclipse of anti-colonial politics—which Von Eschen traces through African-American responses to the early Cold War, U.S. government prosecution of black American anti-colonial activists, and State Department initiatives in Africa—marked a change in the very meaning of race and racism in America from historical and international issues to psychological and domestic ones. She concludes that the collision of anti-colonialism with Cold War liberalism illuminates conflicts central to the reshaping of America; the definition of political, economic, and civil rights; and the question of who, in America and across the globe, is to have access to these rights.