Race Relations in the United States and American Cultural and Informational Programs in Ghana, 1957–1966
Winter 1999, Vol. 31, No. 4
By Kenneth W. Heger
On March 6, 1957, American relations with Africa entered a new era when Ghana, the former British colony of Gold Coast, gained its independence. Ghana's independence heralded the dawn of a new political world, and over the next two years, nations sprang up across the continent. The significance of these events was not lost on American foreign policy makers. To show the importance the United States placed on its relations with the new country, the Eisenhower administration chose Vice President Richard Nixon to lead the American delegation to Ghana's independence celebrations. In August 1959 the U.S. Department of State signaled the growing significance of Africa when it elevated the Office of African Affairs to the rank of a bureau. To further build ties with Africa, President John Kennedy appointed diplomats with the rank of ambassador to each newly independent state early in his administration.1
During these years, the United States was not the only nation interested in Africa. The Soviet Union, and later the People's Republic of China, also sought influence there and the continent soon became another cold war battleground in the propaganda warfare between the East and the West.2 Both communist nations readily used virtually any weapon at their disposal to discredit the United States and quickly seized upon the position of black Americans as a major tool to weaken American influence on the continent.
Communist propaganda forced American policy makers to take swift and decisive actions to deal with foreign perceptions of race relations in the United States before those perceptions could adversely affect American relations with the new nations of Africa. The story of how the United States dealt with this issue in Ghana serves as an excellent example of the cultural and informational programs the United States developed to counteract communist activities on the continent and to maintain good relations with African nations.
The U.S. government was well aware that foreign perceptions of race relations in the United States had the potential to become a major diplomatic problem. In October 1957, after civil rights issues reached a boiling point in the desegregation of the high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, the United States Information Agency (USIA) conducted a survey to determine how race relations affected America's image abroad. What the agency found was disturbing. Universally, foreigners had a negative view of the treatment of blacks in the United States, an opinion that held sway even in nations as friendly to the United States as Norway, West Germany, and the United Kingdom.3 A survey taken later the same year was even more worrisome. The poll-takers discovered that the incidents in Little Rock were not themselves the cause of this negative opinion. Although the study's authors felt that Little Rock may have hardened some opinions about the poor state of race relations in the United States, they interpreted the studies to indicate that those negative views had already been in place before the events in Arkansas.4 Other USIA studies conducted in the wake of racial incidents in Mississippi and Alabama confirmed these findings.5
Because the communist press readily used these events as a means of attacking the United States, it was partially responsible for these negative views. Communist periodicals pointed to race-based incidents in the United States as proof that American democracy was false and that the American people possessed a racist mentality. Moreover, Soviet and Chinese propagandists did not need to rely solely on communist editorials. In what must have been particularly embarrassing to American diplomats, communist news services made ample use of pictures, cartoons, and editorial comment from American papers to support their assertions about the sad state of black Americans.6
Vitriolic attacks by the communist press notwithstanding, the situation was not entirely bleak. Although the USIA studies made it clear that world opinion universally held a negative view of American race relations, the USIA discovered that this view did not automatically translate into hostility toward the United States. In fact, people throughout the world believed that the American federal government was doing a good job of combating racism and discrimination in the United States and felt that federal civil rights programs would eventually improve conditions for black Americans. Even respondents who held harsh views of the state of race relations in the United States usually had a high overall opinion of the United States and its foreign policy.7 A 1962 USIA research report described this situation neatly when it characterized racism in the United States as "the chief blemish on the image of the American people abroad."8
Even though USIA findings indicated that race relations in the United States did not at the present pose a major problem for the nation overseas, American foreign policy makers were determined to face the issue head-on to ensure that it did not become an impediment to American diplomacy and to soften the impact of communist propaganda. As a result, it became an integral part of American cultural foreign policy to combat negative views of American race relations abroad, and as early as 1961 the USIA took concrete, formal steps to address the issue. In July of that year the USIA released Special Report 41, "IRI Background Facts: The Negro American." The report's introduction made it clear that the USIA realized that racial prejudice and discrimination in the United States had a profound effect on America's image abroad, a fact that complicated American relations with the new nations of Africa and Asia. Although American embassies and consulates had access to books and other publications pertaining to the status of black Americans, the USIA felt there was a pressing need for American personnel overseas to have information at their fingertips to be able to answer questions that the literate elite in other nations might have. It is important to note that Special Report 41 was not an attempt to discount claims of racism in the United States. American informational personnel freely admitted that segregation, inequality, and race-based violence existed. In Special Report 41, the USIA attempted to provide information stressing positive events in the history of African Americans since the Civil War. By focusing on the achievements black Americans had made in the areas of education, politics, and economics, the USIA hoped to illustrate that, although things might be bad for black Americans at the moment, conditions had been improving slowly for some time and were continuing to improve. Special Report 41 became the first in a series of reports that treated many of these topics in a more detailed fashion.9
While ready access to facts and figures concerning progress made by black Americans was important, it alone could not provide the support American personnel needed to combat the effects of racism on foreign perceptions of the United States. Throughout the late 1950s and the 1960s, American information officers overseas came to rely on more visual techniques to wage this battle, techniques that could reach a much wider audience than special reports. Ultimately, USIA developed a strategy that incorporated exhibits, as well as lectures and performances by visiting African Americans.
As the first sub-Saharan colony to gain independence, Ghana offered the United States the earliest opportunity to develop such informational programs. From the outset, however, the Department of State and the USIA faced numerous obstacles. The first came in the person of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's leader from independence until the Ghanaian military overthrew him in a 1966 coup. Initially, relations between the United States and Ghana were warm. Nkrumah admired President Kennedy's aggressive civil rights campaign as well as the President's Africa policy. Increasingly, however, Nkrumah began to espouse a brand of "African socialism" that caused a gulf to open between the two states. In August 1963 the Ghanaian government placed limitations on foreign cultural and informational activities in Ghana. It restricted the sale of foreign books, limited the ability of foreign-run libraries to loan books, and banned diplomatic missions from establishing cultural centers in the country. Since the United States insisted that USIA activities and the USIA library were integral parts of the American embassy, those facilities were able to continue operation, but not without constant criticism from some elements in the Ghanaian government and press.10
After Kennedy's assassination, the situation deteriorated still further. Despite Lyndon Johnson's firm stand on improving civil rights in the United States, Nkrumah felt that the new President's position on Africa was not as friendly as Kennedy's. Difficulties between the two nations developed rapidly. On February 4, 1964, propaganda vans from Nkrumah's Convention People's Party toured the streets of Accra, the capital city, calling on Ghanaians to march on the American embassy to protest what it called American rumor-mongering and attacks on the government. Later that day, the party organized a protest rally in front of the embassy. At the same time, the Ghanaian government expelled four American professors from their posts at the University of Ghana on the grounds that the academics were indulging in subversive activities. Nkrumah refused to see the American ambassador about the demonstration or the expulsions.11
Radical elements among the Ghanaian press formed the other major hurdle. Throughout the Nkrumah years, it was common for Ghana's press to contain anti-American editorials often focusing on racism in the United States and accusing American foreign policy of being neocolonialistic, a state of affairs that existed even during the relatively congenial Kennedy years. In 1958 several papers ran articles on the Jimmy Wilson case in Alabama.12 The Ghana Evening News used almost a full page to reprint an article from London's Sunday Observer entitled "Death for 14 Shilling Theft." In 1962 the Ashanti Pioneer asserted that racial incidents in Mississippi, especially those concerning desegregation of the university, proved a daily disgrace to the United States and to all of humanity. In fall 1964, editorials in the official Ghanaian Times often alluded to rampant racism and fascism in the United States and characterized the presidential election as the "race for the leadership of white America." Early the next year, press criticism increased. The Ghanaian Times ran editorials accusing the United States of immorality and claimed that as American industry continued to automate, black Americans would be thrown out of work. That paper and the Ghana Evening News pointed to racial violence and the assassination of Malcolm X as proof that the position of African Americans was intolerable. These attacks were often so shrill that they drove American diplomats in the country to lodge formal protests with the government.13
None of this induced American policy makers to give up on Ghana. On the contrary, it prodded them to examine the views of the Ghanaian populace to determine the mood in the country at large. They found that, despite the growing gulf between the two governments and attacks by the official press, the Ghanaian population was by no means anti-American. For example, the Ghanaian response to the 1962 USIA filmstrip Toward Equal Opportunity was encouraging. USIA personnel observed that Ghanaians who viewed the filmstrip looked favorably upon the progress that black Americans seemed to be making. Furthermore, a 1963 USIA study of African students in the United States found Ghanaian students to be moderately to favorably inclined toward the United States. The same study also determined that although approximately 80 percent of the African students in American had a poor picture of the position of blacks in the United States, 70 percent of them thought the picture was improving. These findings led American policy makers in Ghana to conclude that a small circle within the government and the press viewed the United States with suspicion, if not hostility, but that the general population did not share that opinion. USIA personnel believed that a campaign designed to inform Ghanaian students, teachers, civil servants, and businessmen about the progress that African Americans had made and were making in the United States could improve the image of the United States in Ghana and defuse the attacks by the radical press.14 The result was the development of a program of exhibits, films, radio broadcasts, and support for visiting African Americans designed to illustrate the positive aspects of the life of black Americans.
Perhaps the easiest means of reaching Ghanaians was through the use of exhibits. The USIA library in Accra had eight large windows perfectly designed for such purposes. As early as 1957, USIA staff used photographs supplied from Washington to produce a picture exhibit entitled "Africans in the United States" and displayed it in this window space. The staff expanded upon the exhibit by displaying additional photographs on this subject inside the library.15
By cultivating good relationships with local Ghanaian merchants and community leaders, USIA personnel were able to place exhibits in other locations, thereby increasing Ghanaian exposure to them. For example, the 1961 exhibit "Progress of the Negro in America" was on display at the UTC, one of Accra's largest department stores. The 1963 exhibit "President Kennedy Calls for Equal Rights for U.S. Negro Citizens" could be seen in the central libraries of Accra and Kumasi; the municipal libraries of Sekondi, Cape Coast, Koforidua, Ito, and Tamle; the YMCA center in Accra; the Boy Scout and Girl Scout centers in Accra; as well as the USIA library.16
The exhibits proved to be a useful tool in conveying the USIA's message, and local American officials estimated that thousands of Ghanaians viewed them. Exhibits concerning the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King were particularly popular. 1962's "The New American Negro" received approximately four thousand visits. The following year, two more exhibits relating to King, "Martin Luther King, Nobel Peace Prize" and "Man of the Year: M.L. King," each received about three thousand visits. Exhibits focusing on other topics were also successful. USIA reports indicate that in 1962 and 1963 approximately five thousand people visited the Ebony-magazine-sponsored "100th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation." During 1963 and 1964 approximately 9,500 Ghanaians visited "The Negro Moves Ahead," and in 1963 approximately 3,500 people visited a special exhibit on USIA Director Carl Rowan entitled "Carl T. Rowan's Portrait."17
More significantly, the exhibits frequently prompted Ghanaians to learn more about African Americans. When a popular exhibit was on display, the USIA library often reported increased readership, with special interest in the works of African American authors such as James Baldwin. In addition, people came into the library to ask questions and to request copies of the photographs on display. These activities indicate that the exhibits had the additional effect of creating an interest in the USIA's message beyond a brief examination of the exhibits.18
At the same time, USIA personnel in Ghana developed other programs to supplement the exhibits. They obtained motion pictures such as The Rafer Johnson Story and The Lady from Tridelphia, a film about Marian Anderson's recent Asian tour, to show to general Ghanaian audiences, as well as films and filmstrips about American life targeting secondary school students. Motion pictures often produced positive results. American personnel were especially pleased with the Ghanaian reaction to The Lady from Tridelphia and wrote to Washington that audiences throughout the country were enthralled by the film and hailed Anderson as a role model.19
Embassy staff and USIA personnel presented lectures on American life and the American civil rights movement at the USIA library in Accra as well as on the campuses of secondary schools and teacher training colleges. They made tapes of speeches and commentary by black Americans available to Radio Ghana, including Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and an interview with Sidney Poitier about his Academy Award. They also developed music programs to increase interest in the United States. In May 1958 the USIA library in Accra played recordings of classical music and Negro spirituals and presented a program about the life and music of the late W. C. Handy to the headmaster, music teacher, and twenty-five students from Accra's Ebenezer Secondary School. In December 1964 the USIA resumed its production of American jazz programs for Radio Ghana with the preparation of a series of fifty half-hour shows entitled "The Sound of Jazz."20
Exhibits, films, and music were not the only weapons in America's arsenal. Perhaps the most remarkable way that the USIA and embassy staff tried to paint a positive picture of the life of black Americans was to enlist the services of African Americans traveling through Ghana. From the nation's independence and extending throughout the 1960s, American officials in Ghana welcomed dozens of African Americans to the country. These visitors included Lester Granger, executive director of the National Urban League, and Dr. Benjamin Mays, president of Morehouse College, both of whom received warm welcomes from the local population. USIA personnel in Ghana were impressed by the positive impact that visits of African Americans had on the Ghanaian population and made great efforts to attract prominent black Americans to the country. Several of these visits warrant special attention.21
Barely a year after independence, American personnel in Ghana hosted a visit by Dr. Flemmie Kittrell. Kittrell was a member of Howard University's faculty, teaching home economics and social welfare, and had wide international experience by the time she traveled to Ghana. In 1947 she undertook a nutritional survey for the Liberian government, which presented Kittrell with a special award for her work. In 1949 she attended the International Home Economics Conference in Stockholm, where she presented a paper. In 1950-1951 she traveled to India to help establish a college of Home Economics at Baroda University. She returned in 1954 to complete that task.22
Kittrell visited Ghana between September 8 and 20, 1958, and during that time met with the country's prime minister, the minister of education, and important women leaders. Perhaps of greater significance to improving America's image in Ghana, she also presented eight lectures to classes of young social welfare officers in Accra, Koforidua, Kumasi, and Cape Coast in which she spoke about home economics among the African American community as well as in American society in general. According to the American public affairs officer, audiences were captivated by her lectures.23
Throughout her time in the country, Kittrell fielded questions about race relations in the United States from members of her audiences. Kittrell presented a remarkably balanced picture. She acknowledged that there was still a way to go for African Americans to obtain equality in the United States and conceded that there were likely to be incidents akin to the Wilson and Little Rock incidents in the future. But at the same time, she stressed the progress that African Americans had made during the last several decades and presented a picture of hope for the future, urging Ghanaians to look critically at reports in the domestic press. This honesty won Kittrell the admiration and respect of her Ghanaian audiences as well as of American personnel in the country.24
African American businessmen served as a focus at the 1961 trade fair in Accra. Held between November 27 and December 23, one of the major purposes of the fair was to illustrate that the United States offered economic opportunity to all of its citizens, regardless of race. The fair's theme was "Small Businesses are Big Business," and it displayed equipment and machinery used by small businesses in the United States. African American Congressman Charles C. Diggs flew to Accra as the official representative of the United States, and in his remarks at the opening ceremonies, Diggs characterized the fair as a symbol of the dynamism of America's economic and social system. Black-owned enterprises were well represented and included Joyce Bowman of Ebony magazine, Midway Television's Jerome Morgan, and laundry and dry cleaning entrepreneur Eugene H. Scott. The USIA estimated that approximately 500,000 people visited the fair and noted that the exhibits of black American businesses were especially popular. The Americans claimed that the fair's success went a long way toward making the point that the position of black Americans was not nearly as bad as the anti-American press would have Ghanaians believe.25
African American entertainers formed the largest category of guests. In fall 1958 American officials in Ghana learned that a group of actors from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, an African American institution, were planning a tour through Africa and looked for an opportunity to bring this group to the country. Henry A. Dunlap, the American public affairs officer (PAO) in Accra, secured the support of the Accra Community Association to provide local sponsorship and worked with the Ghanaian Ministry of Education to arrange for the theater troupe to perform at secondary schools in Accra, Kumasi and Cape Coast. Dunlap was successful in obtaining $450 from the Department of State to print tickets for the three concerts and to pay for social hours at each school.26
The troupe performed in Ghana between October 12 and 19 and consisted of ten students and two faculty advisers, including the renowned African American educator Dr. Randolph Edmonds. The program at each school consisted of a performance of Medea, chosen primarily because the heroine is an African, and three one-act plays by noted American playwrights, such as Euguene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams. The troupe made certain to set aside time at each stop to participate in offstage activities, including panel discussions, lectures, and demonstrations of academic theater in the United States. Ghanaian audiences received the students well and clearly enjoyed the performances. Despite a few logistical problems, American embassy personnel characterized the visit as a great success and as having improved relations with the Ghanaian people.27
At approximately the same time that they were preparing for the visit of the Florida A&M Players, American officials in Ghana began laying the groundwork for the celebrated African American soprano Camilla Williams to perform in the country. Williams possessed an impressive résumé that made her a marvelous unofficial ambassador of American culture abroad. Twice early in her career, in 1943 and 1944, Williams won the Marian Anderson Award, given to outstanding young musicians. On May 15, 1946, she was the first African American soprano to sing with a major American opera company when she made her debut with the New York City Opera Company, singing the lead in Madame Butterfly, a role for which she received rave reviews. Later that year she won the New York Newspaper Guide "Page One" Award as the "First Lady of American Opera." Four years later she added the Chicago Defender's Trophy for contributions to music and opera to her growing number of awards. By the time Williams traveled to Africa, she was a seasoned overseas performer, having sung in Panama, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and the British West Indies. With this impressive background, the Americans had no difficulty finding local sponsorship for Williams's visit from the Ghana-American Alumni Associations of Accra and Kumasi. While the Ghanaians handled most local arrangements, the Americans provided technical support, for example, mimeographing programs and reception invitations and releasing pertinent material to the press and radio.28
Williams visited Ghana between December 7 and 9 and performed in Kumasi and Accra. Approximately three hundred people attended her concert in Kumasi, including the Ashanti Chief Asantehene, Otumfuo Sir Ose: Agyeman Prempeh II. In Accra, approximately five hundred people heard her sing, including Kojo Botsio, Ghana's minister of external affairs, and Mr. Akiwum, the Speaker of Ghana's parliament. Williams made a favorable impression on both audiences and received enthusiastic receptions. Proof of this can be found in a letter written after Williams's Kumasi concert to the American embassy by Mr. Lomotey, secretary of the Ghanaian Regional Affairs Office. Lomotey depicted the event in glowing terms, writing that "It was a great historic hour for us all to see such a charming singer of African descent in action, to listen to her beautiful voice, carrying a spirit of goodwill and brotherhood from America to Africa thus clasping hands with the millions of Africans across the water." This was precisely the kind of response for which the Americans had hoped. Dunlap was quick to point out the success of William's trip and to urge the Department of State to schedule cultural events of this quality in the future.29
African American visitors to Ghana also included Dr. Zelma George, who provided American officials in Ghana with a host of opportunities to illustrate many aspects of American culture and society. George was an accomplished musician, having been awarded a certificate in voice from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago in 1928 as well as having studied the pipe organ at Northwestern University. In 1954 George received an Ed.D. degree from the University of Southern California in Sociology. In her degree program, she combined her interests in sociology and music and produced a dissertation entitled "A Guide to Negro Music," which was an annotated bibliography of Negro folk and art music. In 1959 George undertook a six-month worldwide lecture tour as an American "goodwill ambassador" under the auspices of the Department of State that brought her to Ghana between May 24 and June 10. Her audiences were varied, and during her time in Ghana, George spoke to approximately 2,700 Ghanaians on topics such as the sociology of Negro music, focusing on Negro spirituals; the role of contemporary American women; and race relations in the United States. George impressed Ghanaians and Americans alike, and they recorded her speeches. For example, when she spoke to a group of twenty-five women leaders of the Federation of Ghana Women at Awudome Residential College in Tsito, the college made a tape of her address for the institution's future use. In Eguafo State, when she spoke to an audience of approximately two hundred people, including Chief Nana Abutakyi III, the USIA taped a portion of her speech to air on Radio Ghana at a later date. PAO Dunlap depicted George's visit as a success, only bemoaning the fact that Americans in Ghana were unable to reach more people.30
Throughout the final Nkrumah years, the USIA and other American embassy personnel continued their support for cultural and informational programs and had many notable successes. In February 1964 American officials paved the way for Elma Adams to come to Ghana at the invitation of Professor Nketia of the University of Ghana. Elma Adams, a well-known African American graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and winner of the "Negro in the Arts" award, performed for the university's student body. In February 1965 the American embassy hosted a lecture by James Farmer, director of the Congress of Racial Equality, at the University of Ghana in Accra. Despite an official news blackout about the event, there was a large turnout. In August of the same year, Ghana television aired the USIA film Creativity and the Negro. USIA exhibits, such as 1965's "Youth Organizations in the United States," "The Civil Rights Act of 1964," "Ghanaian Dance Students at Julliard," and "African Students in the United States," conveyed the themes of the improving status of African Americans and warm relations between Africans and Americans.31
On March 6, 1966, the Ghanaian military overthrew President Nkrumah, and American information personnel gained renewed freedom of activity almost immediately. Two days after the coup, Ghanaians began calling the USIA library, inquiring if the embargo placed on the lending facilities had been lifted. Six days after the coup, USIA personnel in Ghana reported that Ghana TV had expressed a new interest in accepting a wide range of American material, not just educational films but also documentaries, travelogues, and entertainment films.32
The United States realized, however, that Nkrumah's ouster did not alleviate the need for continued informational programs in Ghana. USIA studies continued to show that, despite a growing belief throughout the world that the lot of African Americans was slowly improving in the United States, the problem of poor race relations in the United States remained a blemish on America's image abroad. With this in mind, programs designed to portray the upward movement of African Americans remained an important part of American foreign policy. The cultural and informational programs begun during Ghana's first ten years of independence had laid the groundwork and became the model for those of the future.33
Kenneth W. Heger is the projects manager for the Modern Military Records unit in the Textual Records Services Division at the National Archives and Records Administration. He received a doctorate in history from the University of Maryland and has been with NARA since 1983.
The preceding narrative is an example of the wealth of information concerning American cultural and informational foreign policy during the cold war and illustrates the potential of using records of the federal government. While the records of numerous federal agencies contain relevant information on foreign policy, those of the Department of State and the USIA are perhaps the most important. Three National Archives record groups contain these records.
Record Group (RG) 59, General Records of the Department of State, consists of records maintained by the Department of State in Washington, DC, and is a rich source of information. Included in this record group is cable traffic between departmental personnel at home and abroad, special reports of American diplomats and consuls, and correspondence between private citizens and the department as well as between State and other agencies of the federal government, such as the USIA. Within this record group, there are two places to locate information pertaining to cultural and informational foreign policy: the department's central file and the files of the department's Bureau of Cultural Affairs.
The department's central file is divided into major classes, and it is easy to locate records pertaining to specific subjects. For example, the central file contains file designations that relate to fairs, exhibitions, music, theater, and such that often contain relevant information. Researchers should note that the department revised the central file's organization in February 1963; consequently, researchers should examine the department's file manuals for appropriate file designations. There are two file categories that warrant special attention.
Researchers would do well to begin their research with those classes pertaining specifically to cultural foreign policy. From 1950 through January 1963, this was Class "5." When the department implemented the new filing scheme in February 1963, the major heading "Culture," abbreviated CUL in the files, replaced Class "5." Researchers will find plans on how to improve America's image abroad and combat communist propaganda (as well as brief evaluations of the effectiveness of these programs), consular and diplomatic despatches, newspaper clippings, and other documents. In both filing schemes it is possible to locate files pertaining to American policies in general as well as to programs in specific countries.
The central file also contains files documenting trips of private citizens or groups abroad. From 1950 through January 1963, these records are filed under the designation "032," followed by the name of the individual or group. For example, the documents pertaining to the Florida A&M Players are filed under "032 Florida A&M Players." Beginning in February 1963, the category TRV, an abbreviation for "travel," replaced "032"; within this category, files continued to be arranged alphabetically by the name of the person or group. These files typically contain background information on the person or group, itineraries, and diplomatic and consular reports about the person's or group's sojourn in specific countries.
In addition to the State Department's central file, researchers may also wish to examine the records of the Bureau of Cultural Affairs. The bureau's files contain the reports, studies, correspondence, and other documents it collected in order to perform its functions.34 As such, these records may contain information not included in the central file. The bureau's records are divided into numerous entries within RG 59, and researchers should consult the draft inventory entitled "Records of the Department of State relating to Cultural and Public Affairs" for records descriptions and file lists.
RG 84, Records of Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State, consists of records created or collected by American embassies and consulates overseas. Because American personnel conducting cultural and informational foreign policy normally operated out of American embassies and consulates, there are several significant series of records in RG 84 that contain plans for cultural programs in foreign countries and evaluation reports. These materials differ from those in the central file because they often include working papers, discussions among American personnel overseas, and correspondence between American and local foreign officials that helped shape American policy on the spot but was not sufficiently significant to overall American cultural foreign policy that departmental officials thought this material should be filed in the central file in Washington. The staff of the Textual Archives Services Division at the National Archives in College Park has prepared a Reference Report to help researchers identify relevant series in RG 84.
The records of the United States Information Service form RG 306. By 1953, American foreign policy makers determined that the United States needed to pursue an aggressive cultural and informational foreign policy to counter adverse communist propaganda. To that end, the federal government created the United States Information Agency to serve as the focal point for this aspect of foreign policy. While the records of the Department of State continue to contain material critical to most studies of American cultural and informational foreign policy, for researchers examining the years after 1953 the records of the USIA assume primacy. The USIA busied itself with opinion studies and surveys to determine how foreigners viewed the United States in general; the state of race relations in America; American foreign policy; and major world events, such as the arms race, Arab-Israeli relations, the space race, and the Vietnam War. USIA records in the custody of the National Archives contain a virtually complete set of research, special, and other reports; files on projects in individual countries; documentation of USIA exhibits overseas; and a small series of despatches sent by USIA personnel abroad to USIA headquarters in Washington. Unfortunately, the National Archives has very few USIA administrative records; those records remain with the USIA.35
Because of the way in which the USIA maintained its records, RG 306 is often a daunting record group to use, and relevant material can be dispersed throughout numerous series. Researchers would do well to examine the draft inventory for RG 306. The inventory lists all of the series in RG 306 and provides extensive box and file title lists to help researchers identify pertinent material.
Researchers may also wish to examine the draft "Guide to Civilian Agency Records Pertaining to American Cultural and Informational Foreign Policy During the Cold War." The draft guide contains sections on the three record groups discussed above in greater detail, including references to important series and administrative background histories of many of the agencies and bureaus. The draft guide and the other draft inventories discussed in this article are available in rooms 2000 and 2600 of the National Archives at College Park.
1. Thomas J. Noer, Black Liberation: The United States and White Rule in Africa, 1948–68 (1985), pp. x–xii, 17, 48-49; Immanuel Wallerstein, "Africa, the United States and the World Economy: The Historical Bases of American Policy," pp. 11–57, in Frederick S. Arkhurst, ed., U.S. Policy Toward Africa (1975), p. 20; Herbert J. Spiro, "U.S. Policy: An Official View," pp. 56-71 in Arkhurst, U.S. Policy Toward Africa, p. 56.
2. See Feb. 20, 1956, State Department Instruction to American Consulate (AmCon) Accra in which State expressed concern that the Soviet Union was increasing its presence in Africa and would try to subvert the newly emerging democracies. CF 645K.61/2-2056, General Records of the Department of State, Record Group (RG) 59, National Archives at College Park, MD (NACP).
3. October 1957 "Public Reactions to Little Rock in Major World Capitals," Special Studies/SR-8-57, Records of the United States Information Agency, RG 306, NACP. Surveys were conducted in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Brussels, Amsterdam, Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Athens, New Delhi, Tokyo, and Mexico City.
4. January 1958 "Post-Little Rock Opinion on the Treatment of Negroes in the U.S.," Program and Media Studies/PMS-23-58, RG 306, NACP. This November 1957 survey was conducted in Great Britain, West Germany, France, Italy, and Norway, and the results compared to a similar one undertaken in April 1957.
5. See, for example, May 1961 "Worldwide Reactions to Racial Incidents in Alabama," Special Reports/S-17, and June 1961 "African Reactions to the Alabama Events," Special Reports/S-18-61, RG 306, NACP.
6. May 1961 "Worldwide Reactions to Racial Incidents in Alabama," Special Reports/S-17-61, and December 1962 "Communist Exploitation of American Racial Incidents: Moscow Lets U.S. News Items and Pix Tell Its Story Abroad," Research Reports/R-174-62, RG 306, NACP.
7. See, for example, May 1961 "Near East and South Asia: Editorial Comments on U.S. Racial Incidents in Alabama," Special Reports/S-55-61; February 1964 "America's Human Rights Image Abroad," Special Reports/S-3-64; and September 1965 "Attitudes of Lagos, Nairobi, and Dakar Residents Toward U.S. Race Relations," Special Reports/S-14-65, RG 306, NACP.
8. October 1962 "Racial Prejudice Mars the American Image," Research Report/R-112-62, RG 306, NACP.
9. July 1961 "IRI Background Facts: The Negro American," Special Reports/S-41-61, RG 306, NACP. Examples of some of the other reports in this series are August 1961 "IRI Background Facts: The American Negro: II, Desegregation in Education," Special Reports/S-42-61; January 1962 "IRI Background Facts: The American Negro: III, Civil Rights—Voting," Special Reports/S-3-62; August 1962 "IRI Background Facts: The American Negro: V, Housing," Research Reports/R-164-62; and August 1963 "The Negro in America: An Annotated Bibliography of Books in the U.S. Information Agency Library," Research Reports/R-156-63, RG 306, NACP.
10. W. Scott Thompson, Ghana's Foreign Policy, 1957–66: Diplomacy, Ideology, and the New State (1969), pp. 300–304, 428–437; George W. Shepard, Jr., "The Growth of Counterracism Among New African Politics," pp. 150–164 in George W. Shepard, Racial Influences on American Foreign Policy (1979); Dec. 14, 1963, Message 86, USIS Accra to USIA Washington, CF/CUL 11 Ghana-US, RG 59, NACP.
11. Mar. 2, 1964, Message 115, USIS Accra to USIA Washington "Program Highlights January & February 1964," Foreign Service Despatches, RG 306, NACP.
12. An Alabama court sentenced Jimmy Wilson, a fifty-five-year-old African American, to death in the electric chair for stealing $1.95 from a seventy-five-year-old white woman, Mrs. Estell Barker. Barker alleged that Wilson had tried to rape her, but the court tried him only for theft. Attempted rape carried a maximum sentence of twenty years; robbery was a capital offense.
According to Despatch 126 from the American embassy in Accra dated August 30, 1958, to the Department of State, virtually every major newspaper in Ghana carried an article about this incident (file 811.411/8-3058, RG 59, NACP).
State was under intense pressure from throughout the world (for more details see file 811.411 Central File, 1955-59 RG 59 NACP), and the department pressured Alabama Governor James Folsom to commute the sentence. On September 29, 1958, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles received a communication from Folsom that Wilson's sentence had been commuted from death to life imprisonment. The last sentence reads, "Knowing of your interest in this matter I thought you would like to have a formal notice of this decision." (811.411/9-2958, RG 59, NACP).
13. Sept. 4, 1958, Despatch 19, USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Records of the United States Embassy at Accra, Ghana, General Records of the United States Information Service, "B-Program," Records of the Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State, RG 84; October 1962 "Media Comment on the Mississippi Crisis," Research Reports/R-109-62; Nov. 5, 1964, Message 14, "Report for October," USIS Accra to USIA Washington, and Mar. 15, 1965, Message 36, "Report for February," USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Records Relating to Exhibits in Foreign Countries "Ghana," RG 306, NACP. See also Sept. 17, 1962, Despatch 434, American Embassy (AmEmb) Accra to Dept. of State, CF 511.45J/9-1762; Sept. 18, 1962, Despatch 442, AmEmb Accra to Dept. of State, NARG 59/CF 511.45J/9-1862; and Sept. 18, 1962, Telegram 362, Dept. of State to AmEmb Accra, 511.45J/9-1862, RG 59, NACP.
14. June 1962 "Evaluation of Experimental IPS Filmstrip 'Toward Equal Opportunity' By Ten Agency Posts in Africa," Program and Media Studies/PMS-64-62; November 1963 "African Students in the U.S.: I. Basic Attitudes and Aspirations, and Reactions to U.S. Experiences," Research Reports/R-215-63, RG 306, NACP. This report found Liberian students to be the most favorably inclined toward the United States, those from former French territories to be the most averse, and those from Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana in between; see also Aug. 20, 1964, Message 4, USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Exhibits in Foreign Countries/"Ghana," RG 306, NACP.
15. July 25, 1957, Despatch 32, USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Bimonthly Report, CF 511.45J/7-2557, RG 59, NACP.
16. Sept. 5, 1961, Operations Memo, USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Records Relating to Exhibits in Foreign Countries "Ghana"; Aug. 7, 1963, Tel. 5434, USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Records Relating to Exhibits in Foreign Countries "Ghana," RG 306, NACP.
17. Sept. 24, 1963, Message 37, USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Records Relating to Exhibits in Foreign Countries "Ghana;" December 1963, December 1964, and December 1965 "Statistical Reports on Exhibits Program," Records Relating to Exhibits in Foreign Countries "Ghana," RG 306, NACP.
18. Feb. 13, 1963, Message 58, USIS Accra to USIA Washington; Feb. 4, 1965, Message 26, USIS Accra to USIA Washington; May 5, 1966, Message 34, USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Records Relating to Exhibits in Foreign Countries "Ghana," RG 306, NACP.
19. Nov. 5, 1964, Message 14, USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Records Relating to Exhibits in Foreign Countries "Ghana"; Feb. 2, 1960, Despatch 4, "Country Assessment Report," USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Foreign Service Despatches, RG 306, NACP. Sept. 16, 1958, Despatch 23, USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Records of the United States Embassy at Accra, Ghana, General Records of the United States Information Service, "B-Program," RG 84, NACP.
20. Feb. 4, 1964, Message 26, USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Records Relating to Exhibits in Foreign Countries "Ghana"; Feb. 12, 1965, Message 31, "Country Assessment Report 1964," USIS Accra to USIA Washington; Dec. 31, 1965, Message 24, "Country Assessment Report 1965," USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Foreign Service Despatches; June 3, 1958, Despatch 50, "USIS Weekly Activity Report May 25?31, 1958," Country Project Correspondence/"Ghana"; Jan. 2, 1964, Message 94, "Program Highlights," USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Foreign Service Despatches, RG 306, NACP. May 13, 1958, Despatch 46, USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Records of the United States Embassy at Accra, Ghana, General Records of the United States Information Service, "B-Program," RG 84, NACP.
21. Feb. 2, 1960, Despatch 40, "Country Assessment Report, 1959," USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Foreign Service Despatches; Mar. 18, 1965, Message 36, "Report for February," USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Records Relating to Exhibits in Foreign Countries/"Ghana," RG 306, NACP.
22. Dec. 18, 1957, Stratmon to du Santoy, Kittrell Bio Brief, Records of the United States Embassy at Accra, Ghana, General Records of the United States Information Service, "Dr. Flemmie Kittrell," RG 84, NACP.
23. Sept. 16, 1958, Despatch 23, USIS Accra to USIA Washington, and Oct. 14, 1958, Despatch 24, USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Records of the United States Embassy at Accra, Ghana, General Records of the United States Information Service, "B-Program," RG 84, NACP.
24. Oct. 9, 1958, Despatch 225, American Embassy Accra to Department of State, Records of the United States Embassy at Accra, Ghana, General Records of the United States Information Service, "Dr. Flemmie P. Kittrell," RG 84, NACP.
25. Jan. 11, 1962, Message 37, with attachment dated Dec. 27, 1961, "Additional Material on U.S. Trade Fair," USIS Accra to USIA Washington, Records Relating to Exhibits in Foreign Countries/"Ghana," RG 306, NACP.
26. Sept. 10, 1958, Despatch 145, AmEmb Accra to Dept. of State, CF 032 Florida A&M Univ Players/9-1058, RG 59, NACP.
27. May 23, 1958, Dept. of State Cable CA-10308, "President's Program: Florida A&M Univ Players," CF 032 Florida A&M Univ Players/5-2358; Oct. 29, 1958, Despatch 279, AmEmb Accra to Dept. of State, CF 032 Florida A&M Univ Players/10-2958, RG 59, NACP.
28. July 21, 1958, Despatch 45, AmEmb Accra to Dept. of State, CF 032 Williams, Camilla/7-2158, RG 59, NACP.
29. Jan. 13, 1959, Despatch 430, AmEmb Accra to Dept. of State, CF 032 Williams, Camilla/1-1259, RG 59, NACP.
30. June 16, 1959, Despatch 767, AmEmb Accra to Dept. of State, "Educational Exchange: Dr. Zelma George," Records of the Plans & Development Staff, Evaluation Branch (E 1581) "Accra Pending," RG 59, NACP.
31. Jan. 21, 1964, Dwyer to Williams, CF "TRV Adams, Irving," RG 59. Mar. 18, 1965, Message 36, USIS Accra to USIA Washington, DC; Sept. 10, 1965, USIS Accra to USIA Washington; July 7, 1965, Message 2, USIS Accra to USIA Washington; and Mar. 8, 1966, Message 28, USIS Accra to USIA Washington, DC, Records re Exhibits in Foreign Countries/"Ghana," RG 306, NACP.
32. Mar. 8, 1966, Message 28, USIS Accra to USIA Washington, DC, Records re Exhibits in Foreign Countries/"Ghana," RG 306, NACP.
33. See, for example, March 1966, "Racial Issues in the U.S.: Some Policy and Program Indications of Research," Special Reports/S-3-66; July 1968, "Data on African Attitudes," Special Reports/S-26-68; and October 1968, "Africa: Programming Implications of Research," Special Reports/S-39-68, RG 306, NACP.
34. For additional discussion about the history, contents, and organization of State Department office files, see Kenneth W. Heger, "Rich Foreign Relations Ore: The Department of State Office Files," The Record: News from the National Archives 4 (November 1997): 14–16.
35. For more information about the history, organization, and records of the USIA, see Kenneth W. Heger and David A. Langbart, "Untapped Resource: Research Records of the United States Information Agency," The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations 29 (June 1998): 9–25.