Department or Program



This thesis examines how racial assumptions influenced U.S. public diplomacy in Latin America during the Alliance for Progress program in the early 1960s. As a soft power mechanism, public diplomacy aims to shape the mindsets of a targeted group by appealing to their cultural values and creating a receptive environment to promote certain ideas. However, the identities and beliefs of the policymakers behind this work often define the methods they choose and the impact they can have. This thesis thus grapples with the question of how the U.S. balances its formal foreign policy positions with more informal forces, such as race, identity, and culture, that are woven into institutions and public thought. I analyzed internal documents from the United States Information Agency (USIA) archives as well as memorandums from the Kennedy administration and Department of State to gain insight into the assumptions motivating foreign policy decisions in Latin America. Then, I evaluated ten USIA films to compare their themes with those in the internal correspondences and research. Although overt expressions of white supremacy are no longer present in these sources, I found that ideas about modernization and the exceptionalism of the U.S. model, which are still inherently tied to whiteness, remain. I argue that this framing is a response to the movements to rearticulate racial identity domestically and internationally during the 1960s. These findings show that while U.S. foreign policy shifts as cultural norms evolve, core institutions of U.S. identity have withstood these changes.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Richter, James

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.