This introductory chapter examines the politicizing effects of American popular culture during the Cold War era. The U.S. government tried to show that American policies were supportive of the liberation and rise of all people of color worldwide via the use of popular culture. By overemphasizing the extent to which social mobility was achievable for African Americans, the State Department sought to influence diasporic political alignments during the Cold War by sending African American athletes on goodwill tours, placing sports at the forefront of American propaganda efforts. Yet as these athletes become increasingly politicized, they soon sought to produce a counternarrative to the State Department's story of racial progress. Rather than celebrating the suggestion that sports were at the forefront of racial advance, the athletes increasingly came to assert that sports were tied to a racist, oppressive system.
Keywords: American popular culture, African American athletes, diasporic political alignments, Cold War, racism, sports, American propaganda, international athletics, cultural ambassadors, counternarratives, goodwill tours
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