Eyes off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944-1955

Carol Anderson (Emory University, Atlanta)

Eyes off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944-1955
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Eyes off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944-1955

Carol Anderson (Emory University, Atlanta)

As World War II drew to a close and the world awakened to the horror wrought by white supremacists in Nazi Germany, African American leaders, led by the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), sensed the opportunity to launch an offensive against the conditions of segregation and inequality in America. The ‘prize’ they sought was not civil rights, but human rights. Only the human rights lexicon, shaped by the Holocaust and articulated by the United Nations, contained the language and the moral power to address not only the political and legal inequality but also the education, health care, housing, and employment needs that haunted the black community. But the onset of the Cold War and rising anti-communism allowed powerful Southerners to cast those rights as Soviet-inspired. Thus the Civil Rights Movement was launched with neither the language nor the mission it needed to truly achieve black equality.

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