This article traces the travels of the American-based performers Canada Lee and Sidney Poitier to South Africa, alongside the experiences of the African National Congress activists Z. K. and Frieda Bokwe Matthews in the United States. As foreign black actors starring in the 1952 film version of Cry, the Beloved Country, Lee and Poitier found themselves caught up in a project that the National Party believed could be used to present the apartheid regime in a positive light. In New York City at the height of the Defiance Campaign, the Matthews were also exposed to the power of the state as both the US and South African governments attempted to prevent them from publicly criticizing apartheid. Engaging with recent scholarship on the racial politics of the Cold War, the article demonstrates how these prominent black individuals had to overcome major obstacles to make themselves heard on the global stage.

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