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America's History in the Making

Resource Archive: Search Results

The Jazz Ambassadors

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Unknown, DAVID BRUBECK AND LOUIS ARMSTRONG STUDIO REHEARSALS WITH THE REAL AMBASSADORS (n.d). Courtesy The Brubeck Collection, Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library. Copyright Dave Brubeck.

Creator Unknown
Context Rehearsals in preparation for State Department-sponsored tours during the Cold War
Audience Iola and Dave Brubeck
Purpose To promote a more positive image of American race-relations

Historical Significance

During the height of the Cold War, America faced an image problem overseas because of its civil rights violations, which undermined its claim to equality and freedom. To combat this unfavorable portrayal, the State Department developed a cultural exchange program featuring the Jazz Ambassadors," a group of touring musicians that included Louis Armstrong and Dave Brubeck. The State Department chose the Jazz Ambassadors because they represented a uniquely American genre of music--many African Americans musicians played jazz--hoping that this would promote a more positive image of American race-relations. The Jazz Ambassadors toured nations that had not aligned with the Soviets or the United States. While Armstrong showed American cultural strength, however, he also remained a steadfast critic of U.S. racism. On the jazz tours, Armstrong, and Dave and Iola Brubeck satirized the tours through their music, as well as the assumption that America's race problem could be solved with a cosmetic fix to its tarnished international image.

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