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The “Pale, Male, and Yale” State Department | The American Diplomat | American Experience | PBS


The U.S. State Department was created in 1789. Its diplomats, appointed by presidents, had always been the face of America in foreign lands. Reconstruction saw a few African Americans appointed as diplomats, but opportunities were rare. Between 1925 and 1950, only five African Americans were admitted to the diplomatic corps. This was the world ambassadors Edward R. Dudley, Terence Todman and Carl Rowan walked into – and had to reshape.

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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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