Segments in this Video

Russian Conflict (06:15)


In February 1953, the Eisenhower Administration intended to win the Cold War; the conflict became a struggle over public opinion. The Soviet Union publicized the United States’ segregation laws and racial problems. The U.S. Information Agency was charged with containing the issue.

Black Representation (06:44)

Congressman Adam Clayton Powell addressed racial issues on Capitol Hill; he married musician, Hazel Scott. In 1955, Powell attended the first Conference of Non-Aligned Nations, defending the U.S. and convincing the administration that jazz could improve the country’s image.

Musical Ambassadors (08:22)

Dizzy Gillespie was the first jazz musician to represent the U.S. on a cultural mission; he had a history of political activism. Gillespie appointed Quincy Jones the tour’s musical director. They played an emergency concert in Greece, quelling anti-American riots.

Jim Crow at Home (02:32)

Although the State Department received good feedback on Gillespie’s tour, conservatives and segregationists opposed the series. Upon his return, the Eisenhower Administration criticized incurred expenditures. Gillespie performed little in the South because of segregation and lack of civil rights.

Ambassador Satch (08:09)

"Voice of America" adopted the radio show "Music U.S.A.," meeting worldwide demands for American jazz while politicizing it. Louis Armstrong was a guest performer. Playing in newly independent Ghana, Armstrong elicited emotional responses from the prime minister with “Black and Blue.”

Little Rock Nine (05:41)

While negotiating to become the cultural ambassador in Russia, Armstrong learned of segregationists preventing children from attending Central High School. An interview revealed his disdain for Eisenhower’s inaction and Governor Faubus’s policies; he was criticized for his comments.

Soviet Technical Victory (05:58)

Sputnik launched in 1957. Duke Ellington claimed that racism was costing America the Cold War. In 1958, the State Department recruited Dave Brubeck to tour Poland and Turkey with his interracial quartet.

Eastern European Tour (07:43)

Brubeck toured war devastated Poland and Turkey, bringing his family; his quartet was well received. He composed “Dziekuye,” as homage to Frederic Chopin, performing at a Warsaw farewell concert; audience response was emotional and positive.

Louis Armstrong Tours Africa (09:58)

Many African countries gained independence in the late 1950s. Armstrong went on a State Department tour in 1960. In the Congo, his arrival temporarily ended the Civil War. Jazz musicians protested the CIA’s involvement in the military coup, causing conflict.

Ambassadors to Russia (07:46)

In 1961, John F. Kennedy became president of the U.S; he hoped to restore international opinion of America. Benny Goodman and his band toured the Soviet Union in 1962. Armed guards prevented fan interaction but after their Saint Petersburg concert, they jammed with local musicians.

Duke Ellington (11:56)

The Birmingham Campaign of 1963 embarrassed Kennedy into addressing civil rights, prompting Ellington to agree to tour in 1963. Upon hearing about the Birmingham, Alabama church bombings, he lost hope on progress. When J.F.K. was assassinated, the State Department brought him home.

Equality and Improvisation (03:41)

Musicians acting as cultural ambassadors believed jazz was a unifier. They shared the music as part of African American culture and took the Civil Rights agenda overseas. World music inspired many to integrate it into their albums.

Credits: Jazz Ambassadors (02:05)

Credits: Jazz Ambassadors

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Jazz Ambassadors

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In 1955, as the Soviet Union’s pervasive propaganda about the U.S. and American racism spread globally, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. convinced President Eisenhower that jazz was the best way to intervene in the Cold War cultural conflict. For the next decade, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Dave Brubeck traveled the globe to perform as cultural ambassadors.

Length: 89 minutes

Item#: BVL279426

Copyright date: ©2018

Closed Captioned

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