Sarah Snyder, From Selma to Moscow: How Human Rights Activists Transformed U.S. Foreign Policy

Sarah Snyder
From Selma to Moscow book cover

The 1960s marked a transformation of human rights activism in the United States. At a time of increased concern for the rights of their fellow citizens—civil and political rights, as well as the social and economic rights that Great Society programs sought to secure—many Americans saw inconsistencies between domestic and foreign policy and advocated for a new approach. The activism that arose from the upheavals of the 1960s fundamentally altered U.S. foreign policy—yet previous accounts have often overlooked its crucial role.

In From Selma to Moscow, Sarah B. Snyder traces the influence of human rights activists and advances a new interpretation of U.S. foreign policy in the “long 1960s.” She shows how transnational connections and social movements spurred American activism that achieved legislation that curbed military and economic assistance to repressive governments, created institutions to monitor human rights around the world, and enshrined human rights in U.S. foreign policy making for years to come.

Snyder analyses how Americans responded to repression in the Soviet Union, racial discrimination in Southern Rhodesia, authoritarianism in South Korea, and coups in Greece and Chile. By highlighting the importance of nonstate and lower-level actors, Snyder shows how this activism established the networks and tactics critical to the institutionalisation of human rights.

A major work of international and transnational history, From Selma to Moscow reshapes our understanding of the role of human rights activism in transforming U.S. foreign policy in the 1960s and 1970s and highlights timely lessons for those seeking to promote a policy agenda resisted by the White House.

Sarah Snyder is Associate Professor in the School of International Service and Affiliate Associate Professor of History at American University in Washington, D.C. She specialises in the history of the Cold War, human rights activism, and U.S. human rights policy. She is the author of From Selma to Moscow: How Human Rights Activists Transformed U.S. Foreign Policy (Columbia University Press, forthcoming 2018).

Her first book, Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network (Cambridge University Press), analyses the development of a transnational network devoted to human rights advocacy and its contributions to the end of the Cold War.

The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations awarded it the 2012 Stuart Bernath Book Prize by for best first book by an author and the 2012 Myrna F. Bernath Book Award for the best book written by a woman in the field in the previous two years.


This event is co-sponsored by the Cultures of the Cold War Network at the University of Sheffield and the Department of History at Sheffield Hallam University.


5 March 2018, 5.00pm - 6.30pm


Cantor Building

Sheffield Hallam University
153 Arundel Street Lecture Theatre (9130)
South Yorkshire
S1 2NT
United Kingdom