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Home > Art & Music, Television > “The Jazz Ambassadors” on PBS Through May 10th

“The Jazz Ambassadors” on PBS Through May 10th

Following up about the new documentary The Jazz Ambassadors, premiere Friday, May 4 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) and continues through May 10. The film site has launched with two new embedded videos:
The United States Information Agency (USIA) uses Voice of America radio to combat Soviet propaganda in films and news media about America’s struggles with racial discrimination and segregation: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jazz-ambassadors/video/america-combats-soviet-propaganda-racism-segregation/
 
In 1955, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. convinced U.S. leaders that jazz was the best way to intervene in the Cold War cultural conflict, with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie becoming the first jazz ambassador to help counter Soviet stories about American racism:http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jazz-ambassadors/video/adam-clayton-powell-jr-teams-dizzy-gillespie/

The Cold War and Civil Rights movement collide in this remarkable story of music, diplomacy and race. In 1955, as the Soviet Union’s pervasive propaganda about the U.S. and American racism spread globally, African-American Congressman 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, America’s most influential jazz artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong,Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Dave Brubeck, along with their racially-integrated bands, traveled the globe to perform as cultural ambassadors.

But the unrest back home forced them to face a painful moral dilemma: how could they promote the image of a tolerant America abroad when the country still practiced Jim Crow segregation and racial equality remained an unrealized dream? Told through striking archival film footage, photos and radio clips, with iconic performances throughout, the documentary reveals how the U.S. State Department unwittingly gave the burgeoning Civil Rights movement a major voice on the world stage just when it needed one most. Leslie Odom, Jr., narrates.

“The Jazz Ambassadors” is a remarkable story of music, diplomacy and race that explores how America’s most famous jazz musicians — Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Dave Brubeck — became the country’s most important cultural ambassadors. Narrated by Leslie Odom, Jr., the documentary features new interviews with Quincy Jones, Adam Clayton Powell III, and others, and will be available to stream May 5  atpbs.org/jazzambassadors and on PBS apps though May 10.

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