During the Cold War, the Soviets were quick to publicize any incident of racial hostility in the United States. Since violence by white Americans against minorities was the perfect foil to America’s claim to be defenders of freedom, news of these occurrences was exploited to full advantage by the Russians. But how did the Soviets gain primary knowledge of race riots in small American towns? Certainly, the Soviets had reporters stationed stateside, in big cities like New York, but research reveals that the majority of their information came directly from U.S. media sources.
Throughout this period, the American press provided the foreign media with information about racially charged events in the United States. Such news coverage sometimes put Washington at a disadvantage, making it difficult for government officials to assuage foreign reactions to the injustices occurring on U.S. soil. Yet in other instances, the domestic press helped to promote favorable opinions abroad by articulating themes of racial progress. While still acknowledging racial abuses, these press spokesmen asserted that the situation in America was improving. Such paradoxical messages, both aiding and thwarting the efforts of the U.S. government, are the subject of The Opinions of Mankind: Racial Issues, Press, and Propaganda in the Cold War.
The study, by scholars Richard Lentz and Karla K. Gower, describes and analyzes the news discourse regarding U.S. racial issues from 1946 to 1965. The Opinions of Mankindnot only delves into the dissemination of race-related news to foreign outlets but also explores the impact foreign perceptions of domestic racism had on the U.S. government and its handling of foreign relations during the period. What emerges is an original, insightful contribution to Cold War studies. While other books examine race and foreign affairs during this period of American history, The Opinions of Mankind is the first to approach the subject from the standpoint of press coverage and its impact on world public opinion.
This exhaustively researched and compellingly written volume will appeal to media scholars, political historians, and general readers alike. By taking a unique approach to the study of this period, The Opinions of Mankind presents the workings behind the battles for public opinion that took place between 1946 and 1965.