Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Redefining the Narrative: The Collision of American Foreign and Domestic Policy in 1965, Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement

Dr Karl P. Benziger, Robert Cvornyek.

The American war in Vietnam and the civil rights movement remain two of the most pivotal moments in post 1945 American history. Yet, few scholars have fully examined the interrelationship between these two events that shaped the political culture and character of the United States during this period. Popular and scholarly accounts of the 1960’s tend to separate these events and this pattern is also evident in monographs centered on the war and the civil rights movement. Recently, historians writing about the Cold War and Civil Rights tend to focus on the period immediately following World War II without extending their critical analysis through the 1960’s. This paper will utilize contemporary accounts identifying 1965 as a critical moment in both the conduct of the war and the civil rights movement and the interrelationship between the two. For instance in early 1965 Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Malcolm X, two very different public figures, addressed the significance of that year as a turning point in recent American history. In a memorandum to President Lyndon Johnson, Humphrey asserted that 1965 was the year of political opportunity that would allow the United States to withdraw from Vietnam and maintain the administration’s good standing among African Americans and other elements within the Democratic coalition. In turn, Malcolm X isolated 1965 as a most dangerous period for American domestic policy makers should the civil rights movement adopt the successful strategies employed by third world movements of national liberation, especially South Vietnam. The dilemmas posed by both and the direction the country ultimately would take had significant consequences for peace and freedom at home and abroad.


Dr Karl P. Benziger  (United States)
Associate Professor
Department of History
Rhode Island College

Robert Cvornyek  (United States)

Dept. of History
Rhode Island College

  • Civil Rights
  • Vietnam
  • domestic politics
  • foreign policy
  • national liberation movements

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)