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Steve Hinnefeld
University Communications

Last modified: Thursday, March 5, 2009

Scholar of civil rights movement to deliver IUís McNutt Lecture

March 5, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Carol E. Anderson, a leading historian of the international dimensions of the U.S. civil rights movement, will present the 2009 Paul V. McNutt Lecture at Indiana University Bloomington.

The lecture will take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 10, in the Dogwood Room of the Indiana Memorial Union, 900 E. Seventh St. It is sponsored by the Department of History in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Anderson photo

Carol E. Anderson

Print-Quality Photo

Anderson, associate professor of African American Studies at Emory University, will speak on "Allies of a Kind: India and the NAACP's Alliance to End Racial Oppression in and from South Africa, 1946-1951." The lecture is free and open to the public.

Anderson's research focuses on international and domestic politics and their effect on human rights and racial equality. Her 2003 book Eyes Off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944-1955 revolutionized the history of U.S. human rights policy by revealing how domestic segregation shaped the founding documents of human rights law, the United Nations Charter and the Declaration on Human Rights.

It describes how African American leaders, in particular the NAACP, pushed in the aftermath of World War II for an expansive definition of human rights, including a right to education, housing, health care and employment. But liberal U.S. leaders, including Eleanor Roosevelt and President Harry S. Truman, retreated to a narrow "civil rights" agenda out of fear that Southern segregationists would cast the idea of international human rights as Soviet-inspired.

"Anderson's assessment is that the liberals' rhetoric belied reality -- that they participated in what she calls 'the politics of symbolic equality,'" said Khalil Muhammad, assistant professor of history at IU Bloomington.

Muhammad added that Anderson's IU Bloomington lecture is timely, as the beginning of the Obama Administration provides another opportunity to assess how idealism and rhetoric are reconciled with the realities of presidential politics and power. "Carol Anderson's work is revealing of the challenges that President Obama faces," he said.

Anderson's current research project, Bourgeois Radicals: The NAACP and the Struggle for Colonial Liberation, 1941-1960, looks at how the NAACP formed transnational alliances that used the levers of middle-class power -- including media campaigns, fundraising and political pressure -- to support freedom struggles in Africa and Asia.

The annual McNutt Lecture honors Paul V. McNutt, who was dean of the Indiana University School of Law from 1925 to 1933, then became Indiana's governor and later served as U.S. high commissioner to the Philippines, director of the Federal Security Agency and chairman of the War Manpower Commission during World War II.