The systemic racism that haunts our domestic institutions does not stop at the water’s edge. Black Americans have long been underrepresented in the hallways of the foreign policy and national security establishments that shape our global voice and our global priorities. For too long, American diplomacy has not reflected the diversity and richness of America. It has been white. And male. U.S. foreign policy has suffered for it. As Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former senior State Department official, recently remarked: “Without racial equity and justice at home we cannot be effective abroad; why not start imagining what a foreign policy with racial equity at its core would look like?”

Encouragingly, President Biden’s first foreign policy speech, delivered at the State Department on February 4, recognized the importance of racial equity to all aspects of U.S. policy: “We’ve taken steps to acknowledge and address systemic racism and the scourge of white supremacy in our own country.  Racial equity will not just be an issue for one department in our administration, it has to be the business of the whole of government in all our federal policies and institutions. All this matters to foreign policy, because when we host the Summit of Democracy early in my administration to rally the nations of the world to defend democracy globally, to push back the authoritarianism’s advance, we’ll be a much more credible partner because of these efforts to shore up our own foundations.”

In celebration of Black History Month, we have compiled resources that recognize some of the trailblazers who overcame structural obstacles and prejudice in the creation and conduct of American foreign policy and those who are calling us to account, to be better, and showing us what we lose when we intentionally or unintentionally silence Black voices in any aspect of U.S. policymaking. We are on a journey of learning and reflection to try to ensure that our platform elevates all voices. We hope you will join us.

Panel Discussions

The Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy
Event Recording
: The Legacy of African-American Diplomats: Past, Present, Future – presented by The Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy, February 11, 2021.

World Affairs Council of Seattle
Event recording
– “Social Justice at Home and U.S. Influence Abroad,” with Uzra Zeya, CEO and President of Alliance for Peacebuilding, and Bishop Garrison, Human Rights First’s chief ambassador to the national security community. Moderated by Nicole Bibbins Sedaca, Deputy Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service program at Georgetown University. November 17, 2020. (Click here to see event page with speaker bios.)

Online Resources

“The Fulbright Paradox,” Charles King, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2021

“Can the State Department Bring More Diversity to the U.S. Diplomatic Corps?,” Robert McMahon, CFR, February 18, 2021

“7 Books on Black History and Foreign Policy Everyone Should Read,” Jennifer Williams, Foreign Policy, February 1, 2022

“Isn’t Four Hundred Years Enough,” Dr. Jonathan Holloway, The New York Times, February 10, 2021

“The Legacy of American Racism at Home and Abroad,” Travis L. Adkins and Judd Devermont, Foreign Policy, June 19, 2020

“Redefining Our Concept of Security,” Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, The Brookings Institution, December 4, 2019

“An Appeal to the National Security Community to Fight Racial Injustice,” Bishop Garrison and Jon B. Wolfsthal, Foreign Policy, June 2, 2020

“The Impact of White Supremacy on US Foreign Policy towards Africa,” Christopher Keith Johnson, E-International Relations, February 7, 2018

Twitter thread of Black women in U.S. foreign policy, February 1, 2019

An incredibly thoughtful resources page “Amplifying Black Voices in International Affairs,” has been compiled by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (published June 2, 2020). Several of the articles listed above can also be found on this page, along with many more.

Podcast and Other Media Resources

Global Take with Black Professionals in International Affairs – podcast

The American Diplomat PBS film exploring the lives and legacies of three African American ambassadors, Edward Dudley, Terence Todman and Carl Rowan

Foreign policy isn’t just for white men: Gina Abercrombie-Winstanle‪y [Politico Women Rule podcast, July 31, 2019]

Black Diplomats podcast, with host Terrell Starr

World Affairs Council Event

Event Recording – “Social Justice at Home and U.S. Influence Abroad,” with Uzra Zeya, CEO and President of Alliance for Peacebuilding, and Bishop Garrison, Human Rights First’s chief ambassador to the national security community. Moderated by Nicole Bibbins Sedaca, Deputy Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service program at Georgetown University. November 17, 2020. (Click here to see event page with speaker bios.)