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Washington, D.C. After retiring in 2000, he

worked for 12 years as a writer and editor for

a group of newsletters serving the electric util-

ity industry. He currently lives in Troy, New

York, where he does freelance writing and

serves on the boards of several nonprofits.

A Proud History Finally

Receives Its Due

African-Americans in U.S. Foreign

Policy: From the Era of Frederick

Douglass to the Age of Obama

Linda Herwood, Allison Blakely, Charles

Stith and Joshua C. Yesnowitz, editors;

University of Illinois Press, 2015; $25/

paperback, $14.87/Kindle; 264 pages.

Reviewed By Charles A. Ray

The concept of this book, a survey of Afri-

can-American involvement in U.S. foreign

policy throughout our nation’s history,

originated at a conference on “African-

Americans and U.S. Foreign Policy” held

at Boston University in October 2012.

Organized by editors Linda Herwood

and Charles Stith, a former ambassador,

the event drewmore than 350 scholars,

former diplomats, State Department

officials, students and members of the

general public.

Students of American diplomatic

history are indeed fortunate that the

conference organizers decided to gather

the papers delivered there for publication

as a book that outlines the significant,

though often ignored or marginalized,

role African-Americans have played in

the development of the country’s foreign


With an introduction by Walter C. Car-

rington and an epilogue by Charles Stith,

both distinguished African-American

diplomats, the essays in


icans in U.S. Foreign Policy

examine how the role of black

elites, as well as the rest of the

African-American commu-

nity, has evolved over the

past century into a central

policymaking role on the

global stage.

While this volume is

not all-encompassing and,

in places, is extremely academic in tone,

it does fill in a lot of gaps in U.S. diplo-

matic history. These contributions are of

value not just to our minority diplomats,

but to every individual involved in the

conduct of American diplomacy. After

all, a fuller understanding of our past will

help Foreign Service members effectively

execute our overseas missions today.

As the early essays in this volume

recount, the first wave of black U.S. diplo-

mats came during the administration of

Ulysses Grant (1869-1877). Republicans

appointed black supporters to diplomatic

and consular positions, primarily in

African or Caribbean posts, to appeal to

newly enfranchised black voters.

Later sections trace the effects of the

Rogers Act’s merging of the diplomatic

and consular services in 1924, detail the

emergence of the “New Negro” (exempli-

fied by Ralph Bunche and Alain Locke)

during the period between World War I

and the beginning of the Cold War, and

remind us of the (often schizophrenic)

road African-American diplomats had to

walk during the civil rights era.

Of particular interest to me was the

section on Carl Rowan, which highlighted

the balancing act African-Americans

faced during the height of the Cold War.

During those years any criticism of

domestic issues, such as segregation

and discrimination, was often met

with accusations of disloyalty or com-

munist sympathies.

Having begun my government

career in 1962, when I enlisted in the

Army, I am intimately familiar with the

difficulties African-Americans serving

the country abroad faced.

We were regularly confronted by for-

eigners who challenged America’s right to

criticize other countries for their human

rights records while denying civil rights to

20 percent of the U.S. population on the

basis of race. As a diplomat in China in

1985, for instance, I constantly had to bal-

ance my awareness that America was not

without problems against my sworn duty

to support national policy.

Though some of the essayists recount

the numerous injustices many African-

American diplomats have suffered while

serving their country over the past 150

years (and continue to experience in

some cases), others remind us of the

gains that have been made in recent

years—and their very real contributions

to formulating and implementing U.S.

foreign policy.

For all these reasons,


icans in U.S. Foreign Policy

is a valuable

resource for anyone seeking a fuller

understanding of minority participation

in American foreign policy since the Civil



Charles A. Ray retired from the Foreign

Service in 2012 after a 30-year career that

included ambassadorships to Cambodia and


These contributions are of value not just to our minority

diplomats, but to every individual involved in the conduct of

American diplomacy.