THE COLD WAR AND THE COLOR LINE: American Race Relations in the Global Arena

Thomas Borstelmann, Author . Harvard Univ. $35 (384p) ISBN 978-0-674-00597-6

In rich, informing detail enlivened with telling anecdote, Cornell historian Borstelmann unites under one umbrella two commonly separated strains of the U.S. post–WWII experience: our domestic political and cultural history, where the Civil Rights movement holds center stage, and our foreign policy, where the Cold War looms largest. After moving swiftly from a 19th century where white consolidation of dominion in the American South and West coincides with Europe's conquest of Africa, and through a Second World War where German prisoners of war are better treated than black soldiers, Borstelmann follows "the nexus of race and foreign relations" through successive administrations as the Cold War develops. Readers deeply familiar with the history of race in America or American foreign policy history may find little that is news here, but by placing the Ole Miss debacle in an international context, or the Marshall Plan in a racial context; by juxtaposing the Bandung Conference and Brown v. Board of Education; by positioning a Selma, March 7, next to the March 8 arrival of marines at Danang, Borstelmann shifts the lens through which we view both the Cold War and the civil rights movement, revealing something new and provocative: the extent to which "domestic and foreign policies regarding people of color developed as two sides of the same coin" and "how those racial lenses helped shape U.S. relations with the outside world in the era of American dominance in the international sphere." No history could be more timely or more cogent. This densely detailed book, wide ranging in its sources, contains lessons that could play a vital role in reshaping American foreign and domestic policy. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 10/15/2001
Release date: 01/01/2002
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-674-01238-7
Ebook - 385 pages - 978-0-674-02854-8
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