Following up about the new documentaryÂ The Jazz Ambassadors,Â 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 Cold War and Civil Rights movement collide in this remarkable story of music, diplomacy and race. In 1955, as the Soviet Unionâ€™s pervasive propaganda about the U.S. and American racism spread globally, African-American CongressmanÂ Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.Â convincedÂ President EisenhowerÂ that jazz was the best way to intervene in the Cold War cultural conflict. For the next decade, Americaâ€™s most influential jazz artists, includingÂ Dizzy Gillespie,Â Louis Armstrong,Duke Ellington,Â Benny GoodmanÂ andÂ 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.Â Leslie Odom, Jr., narrates.
“The Jazz Ambassadors” is a remarkable story of music, diplomacy and race that explores how Americaâ€™s most famous jazz musicians –Â Gillespie,Â Louis Armstrong,Â Duke Ellington,Â Benny GoodmanÂ andÂ Dave BrubeckÂ –Â became the countryâ€™s most important cultural ambassadors. Narrated byÂ Leslie Odom, Jr.,Â the documentary features newÂ interviews withÂ Quincy Jones,Â Adam Clayton Powell III,Â and others, and will be available to stream May 5Â atpbs.org/jazzambassadorsÂ and on PBS apps though May 10.