Borstelmann, Thomas 1958-

views updated

BORSTELMANN, Thomas 1958-

PERSONAL: Born April 29, 1958, in Durham, NC; son of Lloyd Joseph (a professor of psychology) and Jane (a homemaker; maiden name, Millis) Borstelmann; married, October 8, 1988; wife's name, Lynn Denise (a nurse and administrator); children: two. Education: Stanford University, B.A., 1980; Duke University, M.A., 1986, Ph.D., 1990. Politics: "Considerably left of center." Religion: Ecumenical Christian Hobbies and other interests: Running, biking, swimming, cross-country skiing.

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of History, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, assistant professor, 1991–97, associate professor of history, 1997–. Visiting assistant professor, Duke University, 1991. Worked as a high school teacher in Colorado and Washington.

MEMBER: Organization of American Historians, American Historical Association, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

AWARDS, HONORS: Stuart Bernath Book Prize, History of American Foreign Relations, 1994, for Apartheid's Reluctant Uncle; Robert & Helen Appel fellowship, Cornell University, 1998.


Apartheid's Reluctant Uncle, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1993.

The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.

SIDELIGHTS: Thomas Borstelmann's The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena examines the ties between two American social phenomena that arose simultaneously during the post-World War II period: the anti-Communist movement sparked by the rise of the Soviet Union, and the U.S. civil rights movement that brought racial inequity into the public eye. His book examines the policies of the postwar presidents, from Eisenhower to Kennedy to Johnson, revealing each man's attitude toward the controversies. "Tell them to fly," for instance, was Kennedy's rejoinder to reports that African dignitaries were uncomfortable driving through segregated Maryland. However, with Africa undergoing decolonization at that time, the United States "couldn't afford to alienate potential allies," as New York Times reviewer Kelefa Sanneh wrote; Maryland restaurants were soon desegregated by act of law.

Borstelmann, noted Sanneh, "reminds us that the first meeting between Vice President Richard Nixon and Martin Luther King Jr., in 1957, took place in Ghana—King's home turf, in some sense," and that African-American leader W. E. B. Du Bois was quoted as saying that "It is not Russia that threatens the United States as much as Mississippi." Choice critic L. M. Lees found that the focus on U.S. presidents, "coupled with a lack of African and civil rights archival sources, renders [the author 's] account one-dimensional," though Lees also stated that the book provides a "useful introduction" to the two subjects. A Publishers Weekly contributor found more to like in The Cold War and the Color Line, writing that Borstelmann's work reveals "something new and provocative," and that "no history could be more timely or more cogent."

Borstelmann told CA: "Raised in a liberal, academic home in the South, I was fascinated by race relations from as early as I can remember. In addition, U.S. foreign policy (especially since 1945) always seemed the largest projection of power in the world, and thus a subject worthy of study. The relationship between the two is therefore a continuing source of intrigue to me."



American Historical Review, April, 1994, review of Apartheid's Reluctant Uncle, p. 693.

Choice, July-August, 2001, L. M. Lees, review of The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena, pp. 2022–2023.

Historian, winter, 1995, review of Apartheid's Reluctant Uncle, p. 377.

History, summer, 1995, review of Apartheid's Reluctant Uncle, p. 152.

History Today, February, 1995, review of Apartheid's Reluctant Uncle, p. 56.

Journal of American History, September, 1994, review of Apartheid's Reluctant Uncle, p. 796.

New York Times, April 7, 2002, Kelefa Sanneh, "Separate = Equal," p. 18.

Publishers Weekly, October 15, 2001, review of The Cold War and the Color Line, p. 53.

Washington Post, February 3, 2002, Jim Sleeper, "The Reds and the Blacks," p. T05.

About this article

Borstelmann, Thomas 1958-

Updated About content Print Article