With the events in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957, America’s civil rights struggle and racial violence could be seen by the world. Race was undermining the ability of the United States to appeal to emerging new nations. The US government labeled negative reports as Soviet propaganda – but that didn’t stop it from being true.
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The American Diplomat explores the lives and legacies of three African American ambassadors — Edward R. Dudley, Terence Todman and Carl Rowan — who pushed past historical and institutional racial barriers to reach high-ranking appointments in the Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. At the height of the civil rights movement in the United States, the three men were asked to represent the best of American ideals abroad while facing discrimination at home. Colloquially referred to as “pale, male and Yale,” the U.S. State Department fiercely maintained and cultivated the Foreign Service’s elitist character and was one of the last federal agencies to desegregate. Through rare archival footage, in-depth oral histories and interviews with family members, colleagues and diplomats, the film paints a portrait of three men who left a lasting impact on the content and character of the Foreign Service and changed American diplomacy forever.
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