The Jazz Ambassadors
In 1956, America announced a new Cold War weapon to combat the U.S.S.R.: Jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Dave Brubeck, along with their racially integrated bands, would cross the globe to counter negative Soviet propaganda about racial inequality in America. But the unfolding civil-rights movement in the U.S. forced these cultural ambassadors into a moral bind: How could they promote a tolerant image of America abroad when equality remained an unrealized dream at home? “The Jazz Ambassadors” tells the story of how jazz musicians fought back, winning civil rights a voice on the world stage at an especially key juncture. The Portland Observer writes: “The musicians saw how they were being used, but also grabbed the opportunity to show up as themselves and to let the power of their music and personalities changes hearts and energy in ways the power structure scarcely grasped. They also gained a window on freedom movements around the world, and brought back perspective that impacted the movements for civil rights at home.”
CountryRussia U.K. U.S.
Film CategoryHuman Rights Spotlight International Spotlight Leon & Mary Strauss Documentary Spotlight Mean Streets: Viewing the Divided City Through the Lens of Film and Television Music Spotlight Race in America: The Black Experience
SubjectHuman Rights Music Politics
Co-presented with Jazz St. Louis
Department of African and African-American Studies at Washington University