The Congressional Black Caucus and American policy toward southern Africa, 1970-1980
Rivers, Bradley William
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This paper is a response to the growing literature surrounding ethnic group influence on American diplomacy, as well as the call from those historians who have broken new ground with respect to African American influence on foreign policy. It does not, however, attempt to draw conclusions about the perceptions of the entire black community during this period. Instead, it focuses on the attitudes and perceptions of African American members of Congress during the 1960s and 1970s as they tried to reorient American policy toward Africa. The Congressional Black Caucus has been active on foreign policy issues since its founding in 1971, although its role in domestic affairs has been more widely publicized. Studying the organization’s attempts to reorient American policy in Africa provides a unique opportunity to analyze the limits and possibilities of ethnic group influence on American diplomacy. As a national black organization, the CBC has been inextricably linked to the socioeconomic and political fortunes and the evolving policy priorities and preferences of the African American community. As a minority group within Congress, however, the caucus has had to rely on coalition-building and cooperation with other members to achieve its objectives. This has required a certain pragmatism and willingness to compromise not demanded of other African American interest groups.