Panel 6: "Red & Hot, Blue & Cold: Jazz and Opening the Iron Curtain with Cultural Diplomacy"
presentationposted on 12.04.2014, 00:00 authored by Gabriel Martins
The United States and the Soviet Union negotiated for cultural exchanges during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s to promote good will and cooperation because they both realized that global nuclear annihilation was undesirable. The Soviets sent ballerinas and classical musicians while the United States sent jazz musicians abroad to promote American ideals and democracy. However, these cultural exchanges were rife with issues. A key claim of the Soviet propaganda machine was that America was a racist, segregated country, and this played into which musicians could travel into the Eastern European Bloc and the Soviet Union. By sending African American musicians and racially integrated ensembles abroad through the Jazz Ambassadors Program, the United States hypocritically portrayed itself as an equal, democratic society. Despite these and other issues, the Jazz Ambassadors Program was effective as a form of cultural diplomacy. This essay looks at the reasons behind the program's success, specifically in how the participants exercised autonomy on their tours, disregarded governmental goals, and reached out to the people to form strong bonds of diplomacy and friendship through music. Their success offers a key to dispersing future tensions and conflict through the efficacy of cultural interaction.