Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




This paper describes the experiences of African American soldiers during and after the Vietnam War, using personal statements drawn from oral histories, journals, and interviews to expose their interpretation of American exceptionalism as seen in both domestic and foreign policy. Participants in both the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, black veterans argued that racial nationalism (an ethno-racial view of foreign relations and American citizenship) superseded civic nationalism (the tendency toward individual liberty, and rooted in universal equality) during defining moments in the nation’s history, determining its foreign and domestic policies, and undermining the universal appeal of American principles. Their statements reveal a belief in government’s obligation to legislate and promote liberty, though criticisms of this process are plentiful; further, a belief in culture’s ability to counter the homogenizing tendency of American style liberty is also apparent. Their interpretations reinforce Antonio Gramsci’s notion of hegemony wherein subordinate members of society consent to their subordination.



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