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"Back Channel to Cuba" Wins Prestigious Award from the American Academy of Diplomacy

Left, Bill LeoGrande, right, cover of Back Channel to Cuba

Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, co-authored by SPA professor William LeoGrande, has won the prestigious Douglas Dillon Award of the American Academy of Diplomacy. 

Back Channel to Cuba challenges the conventional wisdom of perpetual conflict and aggression between the United States and Cuba since 1959. Relying on documents released under the Freedom of Information Act and extensive interviews with U.S. and Cuban diplomats, the book recounts an untold history of bilateral efforts toward rapprochement and reconciliation. 

The Douglas Dillon Award was presented at a Nov. 15 luncheon at the State Department. Named for C. Douglas Dillon, the ambassador to France under President Eisenhower and secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, the annual award recognizes “a book of distinction on the practice of American diplomacy.”

Professor LeoGrande said he and his co-author are, “especially gratified to receive an award for writing a book about diplomacy from those who practice diplomacy.” 

Founded in 1983, the American Academy of Diplomacy is a private, non-profit, non-partisan, elected organization whose active membership is limited to men and women who have held positions of high responsibility in shaping American foreign policy. They have served the United States as chiefs of mission in major embassies abroad or in high-level foreign policy positions in Washington.

The authors worked a full decade on the book. Originally, they had planned to cover developments only through the administration of George W. Bush. But, Professor LeoGrande said, “Every time a new president was elected we had to write a new chapter.” 

The University of North Carolina Press launched the book in Fall 2014, just weeks before President Obama’s December 16 announcement that the U.S. and Cuba would reestablish the diplomatic relations severed 50 years ago. The recently releasedpaperback edition features an update on the secret negotiations that led to the rapprochement. 

Widely recognized as an expert on Latin American politics, Professor LeoGrande has written five books, including Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America, 1977-1992. He has served on the staffs of the Democratic Policy Committee of the United States Senate, and the Democratic Caucus Task Force on Central America of the United States House of Representatives. Professor LeoGrande has been a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow and a Pew Faculty Fellow in international affairs. His articles have appeared in various international and national journals, magazines and newspapers. 

Professor LeoGrande has taught at AU since 1978. He served as SPA’s Acting Dean for two years in the 1990s and as Dean from 2003 to 2013.