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Satchmo Blows Up the World

Satchmo Blows Up the World

Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War

Penny M. Von Eschen

ISBN 9780674022607

Publication date: 09/30/2006

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At the height of the ideological antagonism of the Cold War, the U.S. State Department unleashed an unexpected tool in its battle against Communism: jazz. From 1956 through the late 1970s, America dispatched its finest jazz musicians to the far corners of the earth, from Iraq to India, from the Congo to the Soviet Union, in order to win the hearts and minds of the Third World and to counter perceptions of American racism.

Penny Von Eschen escorts us across the globe, backstage and onstage, as Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and other jazz luminaries spread their music and their ideas further than the State Department anticipated. Both in concert and after hours, through political statements and romantic liaisons, these musicians broke through the government's official narrative and gave their audiences an unprecedented vision of the black American experience. In the process, new collaborations developed between Americans and the formerly colonized peoples of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East--collaborations that fostered greater racial pride and solidarity.

Though intended as a color-blind promotion of democracy, this unique Cold War strategy unintentionally demonstrated the essential role of African Americans in U.S. national culture. Through the tales of these tours, Von Eschen captures the fascinating interplay between the efforts of the State Department and the progressive agendas of the artists themselves, as all struggled to redefine a more inclusive and integrated American nation on the world stage.

Praise

  • With verve and candor, Penny Von Eschen tells the story of how the U.S. tried to deploy the hot and cool sounds of jazz as a not-so-secret weapon in the Cold War. Little did they realize that the 'jambassadors' would not be the State Department's pawns. Von Eschen captures the tensions between U.S. foreign policy goals and the musicians' imperative to swing, and in so doing has uncovered terrific stories and offered fresh insights into the postwar world.

    —Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

Author

  • Penny M. Von Eschen is L. Sanford and Jo Mills Reis Professor of Humanities at Cornell University.

Book Details

  • 352 pages
  • 0-7/8 x 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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