Two scholars explore the United States Information Agency and Black Panther Party Activism
The United States Information Agency and Iran, 1953-1958
From its inception in 1953, the United States Information Agency engaged with foreign publics to promote American interests. In this talk, Darius Wainwright considers the Agency’s attempts to promote American culture, values and way of life in Iran between 1953 and 1958 and the extent which it succeeded. Engaging with Iranians was of the utmost priority since the Iranian government was taking a more aggressive stand towards the Soviet Union. USIA figures were convinced that Iranian public opinion was opposed to this foreign policy shift and that many Iranians possessed unfavourable views of the United States. This talk will explore how USIA officials in Iran tried to rectify this through English language teaching, and the promotion of American books and films. In contrast to most research on US-Iranian relations – which tends to focus on economics and military affairs – this exploration lies firmly in the field of new international history.
The Illinois Black Panther Party and Community Survival
The Illinois Black Panther Party’s community survival programmes were intended not only to heighten ghetto consciousness to institutional ineptitudes but also to fill a political void through the initiation of breakfast programmes and free health clinics. Espousing revolutionary socialism, the Panther’s Illinois chapter came to represent the zeitgeist of the radical left movement and acted as its vanguard. Rather than acting as a foil to the civil rights movement, the Panthers’ activism came to represent a positive outgrowth of black power activism that worked with, rather than against more moderate forms. Matthew O’Brien probes these dynamics, while enhancing the scholarship on local Panther chapters. He also addresses how agents of the city government, including the Board of Health and the Chicago Police Department, attempted to suppress their broader mission of serving the community.
Darius Wainwright is a PhD student in the University of Reading’s Department of History. In 2017 he was Eccles Centre Visiting Postgraduate Awardee. He is also the recipient of the British Association of American Studies John D Lees Award for American political studies and the Dwight D Eisenhower Presidential Grant.
Matthew O’Brien is a PhD student at University College Dublin and a recent recipient of the Eccles Centre Visiting Postgraduate Award. His research is focusing on black power grassroots activism in Chicago, 1968-1983, through a lens of political education.
Image: Breakfast Programs, The Black Panther, 19 July 1969, p.16 (source: The Freedom Archives)