Jessica Lynn Graham's book upends the story of Brazilian exceptionalism as a “racial democracy,” persistent even in the extensive scholarship contextualizing that nationalist ideology. Using an impressive array of sources from Brazil and the United States—diplomatic and congressional records, party propaganda, the Black press, and the files of secret or political police, among others—Graham tells a new story in which racial democracy's language and ideals emerged dialogically in both countries in the 1930s and 1940s, a time when democracy's meanings were especially fluid. Graham masterfully demonstrates how the struggles between Left and Right before and during World War II, and the machinations of both Brazilian and US officials to position their states advantageously during the war and in the postwar order, led to “a theoretical tug-of-war over the meanings of democracy” in which race became newly central (p. 4).

In both Brazil...

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