Harriet Steele Humanities and Social Science
"A Matter of World Concern": Civil Rights and the UN Genocide Convention, 1949-1955
In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The Convention defines genocide a term coined by Rafael Lemkin in 1944 as intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such The United States Senate did not ratify the Convention until 1988. I will use archival research to consider the Senates postwar (1949-1955) ratification debates debates about the codification of group rights in international law in the context of consciousness regarding group rights in the US. My research topic ponders how two related factors shaped the Senates deliberations: the relationship between the theoretical underpinnings of the concept of genocide, and American racial discrimination; and American civil rights advocates use of the UN as an instrument for advocacy. Ultimately, I aim to explore these subjects with an attention to broader implications for the relationship between the US and supranational enforcement of human rights.