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The United States and South Africa during the Kennedy Administration 1961-1963: John F. Kennedy, the United States, and South Africa

Posted on:2018-11-20Degree:M.AType:Thesis
University:Clark UniversityCandidate:Davis, BenjaminFull Text:PDF
The object of this thesis is to show how historians of the Cold War, particularly those who cover diplomatic and race relations have overlooked certain themes with regards to President John F. Kennedy's policy toward the Republic of South Africa. This thesis shows that the ongoing debate of whether or not Kennedy was a pragmatic or an idealist world leader seems to overlook individual cases, in this thesis the case is South Africa. This thesis shows that Kennedy was against racism and white supremacy. These views were shaped during his upbringing, solidified during his time as a pre-presidential politician, and were enacted while he was President of the United States.;John F. Kennedy's political career largely focused on how the United States, up until his time as a politician, had overlooked Africa. Since during his time African nations were gaining independence and faced direct conflict with NATO European allies, the U.S. was obligated to take a stance. This became particularly important with the rise of the Civil Rights Movement and transnational activism on behalf of the global African diasporic community, from within Africa and within African American activist communities. With regards to South Africa, this became all the more important after the Sharpeville Massacre in March of 1960. The pressure was on Kennedy to make a decision, especially when it came to problematic allies like South Africa. The apartheid system in South Africa presented a problem for the U.S.'s detente anticommunist alliance with the nation, especially when it showed stubbornness in front of the United Nations as well as an unwillingness to negotiate with the United States with regards to the cessation of the militarization of apartheid laws. This thesis shows that Kennedy was faced with a decision: remain the calculating pragmatist he was known to be or confront his ideals and condemn an important ally in Africa. This thesis argues that it was not necessarily Kennedy who confronted this problem, rather it was the divide within his Administration between "Europeanists" and "Africanists" in the State Department that directly confronted the issue of South Africa and much of the policies created reflected Kennedy's idealism. In this regard, Kennedy was a pragmatic idealist since he abhorred white supremacy and wanted to maintain detente and initiate friendships with new African leaders.
Keywords/Search Tags:Africa, United states, Kennedy, Thesis, John
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