317. Memorandum From the Deputy Director of the Office of Southern Africa Affairs (LaMont) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Palmer)1


  • Embassy Pretoria Staff Studies of South Africa’s Racial Problem

I. Embassy Pretoria despatch number 291 of April 11, 1957,2 finds “that the condition of race relations in South Africa is not a remote danger to be dealt with a few years hence, but a real and vital one today, in that unless measures are taken now to check or reverse the presently accelerated trends, the forces in motion leading in the direction of crisis may soon push beyond human control”.

Embassy Recommendations as to What the United States Can Do To Arrest These Trends:

Embassy officers are to act as individual propagandists to stress the practical “danger of detrimental race relations for South Africans” and to suggest four “constructive” approaches; viz., more inter-racial contacts, better non-White living standards, more professional and other opportunities for educated non-Whites, and the cultivation of more human attitudes toward non-Whites.
The exchanges program should be expanded and harmonized still more to the four approaches mentioned above. USIS should emphasize, principally from United States experience, the values of inter-racial contacts and of the other approaches mentioned above.

II. Embassy Pretoria despatch number 294 of April 12, 1957,3 recommends that United States policy toward South Africa be based upon practical, realistic American national interests, not moral issues. “Let’s reveal to the South Africans less of our humanitarian concern for people of color; let’s talk less about injustice and immorality and more about what is happening in hard, cold terms as regards Black Nationalism and Communism, and the White man in Africa. South African Nationalists will still argue that they know best how to control such developments, but many are much less convinced of the practical benefits of their policies than they are of the high rectitude of their purpose.”

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Embassy Recommendations:

“In surveying the normal instruments at our disposal for the exercising of influence on a foreign country, it is clear that we have few available in respect to South Africa …4 I suggest that in our efforts to persuade the South Africans to our way of thinking we make use of unpublished approaches through diplomatic channels”; i.e., approaches to South African officials in Pretoria, Washington, and elsewhere, and possible cooperation with other Governments.
In considering carrot/threat gambits, the Embassy suggests the following possibilities: alteration of the gold price, non-renewal of the uranium contracts, withholding of United States defense commitments to South Africa, and advice to American investors.

AFS Comment:


AFS concurs in the recommendation that Embassy officers seize every worthwhile and judicious opportunity to influence South African Whites to moderate their racial views and policies. It feels that nothing less is acceptable. This practice has been in effect in the past and should be pursued as vigorously as possible without becoming counter-productive.

In 1953, Ambassador W. J. Gallman wrote about this practice as follows (Cape Town despatch number 57 of August 13, 19535): “Awareness among natives of their present mean way of life and a desire for an ampler one will, however, grow day by day, and no opportunity should be lost to encourage those who recognize the trend, in their efforts to spread the light. My staff and I are trying quietly and unobtrusively to do this.” Again discussing the need for a “material amelioration in race relations in South Africa”, Ambassador Gallman wrote in the same despatch:

[Here follow extracts from paragraphs 5–7 of despatch 57.]

AFS agrees that the exchanges program should be expanded and that USIS can afford to portray somewhat more boldly the progress of the Negro in the United States, without over-emphasizing those aspects of inter-racial association in the United States which might persuade the Union Government to curb the program.
AFS will give consideration to the advisability of making “approaches through diplomatic channels” on this matter to South African officials outside the Union, though it has some doubts about the efficacy of this means and wonders if the Embassy feels that a multiplication of American Ambassadors in a number of foreign posts can make the desired point better than one.
AFS does not feel that the position of the United States with respect to the carrots/threats mentioned above (gold price, uranium contracts, defense commitments, and advice to American investors regarding the stability of the South African situation) is strong enough to utilize with any reasonable hope of accomplishing the purpose intended.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 845A.411/5–1657. Secret. Drafted by William M Johnson.
  2. Document 313.
  3. Document 314.
  4. Ellipsis in the source text.
  5. See Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. xi, Part 2, p. 1002.