Africa for the Africans

Ryan M. Irwin

in Gordian Knot

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199855612
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199979882 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in International History

Africa for the Africans

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This chapter explores Washington’s response to the apartheid debate. It explains U.S. policy through the eyes of Mennen Williams, who served as an Assistant Secretary of State during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. The first part of the section explains Williams’s worldview and explicates his policymaking difficulties in the early 1960s. The second part of the chapter looks at the nature of Williams’s influence during the Johnson years. Although Williams never shaped U.S. policy toward hotspots like the Congo, he exerted important influence over the apartheid question. His arguments about racial justice and liberal internationalism gained traction in 1965–66, and by the time he left Washington in 1966 to pursue the Michigan senate seat, many of his colleagues supported the idea that the United States would have to confront South Africa over apartheid.

Keywords: Mennen Williams; John Kennedy; Lyndon Johnson; United Nations; decolonization; liberal internationalism; sanctions; civil rights movement; Southern Rhodesia; Congo

Chapter.  12952 words. 

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