Since its publication in 1944, many Americans have described Gunnar Myrdal's An American Dilemma as a defining text on U.S. race relations. Here, Maribel Morey confirms with historical evidence what many critics of the book have suspected: An American Dilemma was not commissioned, funded, or written with the goal of challenging white supremacy. Instead, Morey reveals it was commissioned by Carnegie Corporation president Frederick Keppel, and researched and written by Myrdal, with the intent of solidifying white rule over Black people in the United States.
Morey details the complex global origins of An American Dilemma, illustrating its links to Carnegie Corporation's funding of social science research meant to help white policymakers in the Anglo-American world address perceived problems in their governance of Black people. Morey also unpacks the text itself, arguing that Myrdal ultimately complemented his funder's intentions for the project by keeping white Americans as his principal audience and guiding them towards a national policy program on Black Americans that would keep intact white domination. Because for Myrdal and Carnegie Corporation alike, international order rested on white Anglo-Americans' continued ability to dominate effectively.