Today we welcome a guest blog post from Nicholas Grant, author of Winning Our Freedoms Together: African Americans and Apartheid, 1945–1960, on the South African government’s reaction to the 1957 crisis over the integration of Little Rock Central High School.
Winning Our Freedoms Together examines how African Americans engaged with, supported, and were inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement. Bringing black activism into conversation with the foreign policy of both the U.S. and South African governments, this study questions the dominant perception that U.S.-centered anticommunism decimated black international activism. Instead, by tracing the considerable amount of time, money, and effort the state invested into responding to black international criticism, Grant outlines the extent to which the U.S. and South African governments were forced to reshape and occasionally reconsider their racial policies in the Cold War world.
Winning Our Freedoms Together will be out in November 2017 and is available for pre-order now.
Apartheid South Africa and the 1957 Little Rock Crisis
The world was watching when — 60 years ago this month — nine black honors students attempted to enter Little Rock Central High School in September 1957. The battle over segregation in Arkansas reverberated around the world. Circulating in ways that vividly underlined the failings of American democracy and the viciousness of Jim Crow.
Little Rock placed the U.S. government under intense international scrutiny, illustrating the extent to which race and the politics of the Cold War were intimately bound up with one another. Facing Soviet propaganda attacks that connected American capitalism with white supremacy – and eager not to alienate the leaders of newly independent nations in Asia and Africa – the Eisenhower administration eventually responded by deploying Federal troops to ensure the school’s integration.
As foreign powers lined up to condemn the violence at Little Rock, in South Africa, the apartheid government watched on nervously. The ruling National Party closely monitored the development of civil rights movement. Increasingly concerned that integration would raise uncomfortable questions about the ‘legitimacy’ of the apartheid system, South African officials responded to key racial flashpoints in the United States by sending a flurry of memos back and forth across the Atlantic.