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African Americans in U.S. Foreign PolicyFrom the Era of Frederick Douglass to the Age of Obama$
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Linda Heywood, Allison Blakely, Charles Stith, and Joshua C. Yesnowitz

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038877

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038877.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 27 May 2022

Goodwill Ambassadors

Goodwill Ambassadors

African American Athletes and U.S. Cultural Diplomacy, 1947–1968

(p.129) 6 Goodwill Ambassadors
African Americans in U.S. Foreign Policy

Damion Thomas

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines the “challenges, contradictions, and political nature” of African American sports emissaries during the early Cold War era. Recognizing the impact that Soviet declarations of American mistreatment of blacks were having on global public opinion about the United States, government officials planned goodwill trips that provided opportunities for people around the world to meet successful African Americans whose abilities on the playing field and loyalty to the nation represented a positive counterweight to the claims being posited by adversaries of the United States. The chapter devotes special attention to athletes' response to the program, most of whom were initially unaware of the underlying political purpose of their trips. There was an unintended politicizing effect for the athletes, as many used the forum to distance themselves from domestic policies, push for civil rights, and find common cause with subjugated peoples around the world. An increased unwillingness for citizen diplomats to “stay on message” resulted in the programs being scaled back in the late 1960s.

Keywords:   African American athletes, sports emissaries, diplomacy, foreign relations, Col War

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