Sarah B. Snyder is a historian of U.S. foreign relations who specializes in the history of the Cold War, human rights activism, and U.S. human rights policy. She is the author of two award-winning books. From Selma to Moscow: How Human Rights Activists Transformed U.S. Foreign Policy (2018) explains how transnational connections and 1960s-era social movements inspired Americans to advocate for a new approach to human rights. Her first book, Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network (2011), analyzes the development of a transnational network devoted to human rights advocacy and its contributions to the end of the Cold War. She is also the co-editor with Nicolas Badalassi of The CSCE and the End of the Cold War: Diplomacy, Societies and Human Rights, 1972-1990 (2018). In addition to authoring several chapters in edited collections, she has also published articles in Diplomatic History, Cold War History, Human Rights Quarterly, Diplomacy & Statecraft, Journal of Transatlantic Studies, European Journal of Human Rights and Journal of American Studies. She previously served as a Lecturer at University College London and as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University.
Throughout its history, the U.S. government has been largely consistent in minimizing attention to human rights concerns in its policy formulation. The two exceptions to this low level interest have come when championing human rights aligned with the government’s existing foreign priorities or when nongovernmental activists successfully pressured branches of the U.S. government to take human rights violations into greater account. The talk analyzes six distinct periods of U.S. attention to human rights since 1945 and reveals the means by which activists can shape government policy.