Term of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of History

Committee Chair

Julie de Chantal

Committee Member 1

Cathy Skidmore-Hess

Committee Member 2

Mao Lin


Reagan’s administration used the policy of constructive engagement to bring gradual reform to the apartheid system and build peace in the southern African region. The coordination of anti-apartheid activist organizations and members advocating for harsher economic pressure on South Africa successfully raised US public awareness and shifted public opinion against constructive engagement’s gradualist policies. As a result, leading Reagan staffers like Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Chester Crocker recalibrated constructive engagement’s focus to quicken regional peacebuilding maintain stability and control of US foreign policy in the public eye. This thesis analyzes the early influences on constructive engagement and Reagan’s efforts to maintain economic gradualism while emphasizing the role of US anti-apartheid activists as active agents of change in Reagan’s policies towards South Africa. “Cannot Afford to Publicly Surrender” focuses on how Reagan staffers and anti-apartheid activists used public mediums as stages for their respective agendas on US foreign policy.

OCLC Number


Research Data and Supplementary Material