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Jazz Diplomacy and the Cold War

by on May 8, 2012

At the height of the Cold War years, “Jazz Diplomacy”, proved to be the most powerful tool of the United States to diminish both the credibility and appeal of Communism beyond the Eastern bloc (Rosenberg Jonathan: 2012). From the 1950s to the 1970s however, the U.S State Department sponsored programs; sending its finest jazz musicians to the far end corners of the world (Costigliola Frank: 1984)  . Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and Dizzy Gillespie among others toured in more than 35 countries from Eastern Europe, to the Former Soviet Union, the Middle East, Asia and Africa (–Promoting-America-in-the-Cold-War-Era_51802.html) in order to win the hearts and mind of people as well as to promote a positive view of America as a Democratic nation free of racism.

Moscow, Soviet Union 1962 [Goodman Benny

Under the U.S State Department’s Office of Information and Cultural Affairs, ‘Voice of America’ offered each weak countless hours of jazz music, which became the informal hymn for many Soviets and “kept hopes of freedom alive in the darkest days of oppression in communist Czechoslovakia” pointed out Havel at the White House Millennium Evening in 2000 ( Therefore, jazz as an instrument of American cultural diplomacy, transformed the U.S -Soviets relations and also reshaped the image of democracy in the world, particularly for those living under Soviet Communism. The result of which had far more positive influential  impacts than initially imagined. Jazz music successfully opened the doors towards a better understanding of ‘American Culture’ by offering a unique way of connecting with people; transcending political and language barriers. In sum, we can argue that there is no doubt that jazz  diplomacy played a key role in promoting a positive image of America abroad during the Cold War.

Cairo, Egypt 1961 [Amrstrong Louis



-Ambassador Cynthia P. Schneider, Cultural Diplomacy: Why It Matters, What It Can and Cannot — Do? Short Course on Culture Industries, Technologies, and Policies, Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, August 30, 2006:

-Cultural Diplomacy and The National Interest; In Search of a 21st-Century Perspective, Arts Industries Policy Forum. Available at:

-Costigliola Frank: (1984), “Awkward Domination; American Political, Economic, and Cultural Relations with Europe, 1919-1933”, pp.167-182, Cornell University Press.

-Jonathan Rosenberg: America on the World Stage: Music and Twentieth-Century U.S. Foreign Relations, Diplomatic History, (Jan2012), Vol. 36 Issue 1, p65-69

-Jazz Diplomacy: Promoting America in the Cold War Era:–Promoting-America-in-the-Cold-War-Era_51802.html

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