Jazz: The Most Unusual Weapon We Used To Fight Commies!

You know about the period in American history where we tried our best to fight communism globally, right? People were accused of being communists left and right – even the famous Charlie Chaplin wasn’t immune. Well, our government got the idea to share our political ideals with other countries in a very unique way: by sharing our jazz music with them.

Our Secret Weapon?

Via Messy Nessy Chic / Left image © Bill Mauldin

You see, we thought that if we shared how great our country was, then other countries wouldn’t fall to communism. At the time, we thought there was no better way to do this than jazz, which was already taking the nation by storm. As a result, the United States sent out several “jazz ambassadors” such as Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. The government also hoped that it would make the U.S. look good because of the civil rights controversies going on at the time.

The First Jazz Ambassadors

Via Messy Nessy Chic / Image © Rutgers University

The first of our jazz ambassadors was Dizzie Gillespie, pictured above with a group in Greece. This was right after a civil war broke out, and communists had lost the battle. Nice scenery!

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Following Gillespie was Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, who went on a trip to present-day Ghana. His tours were extremely popular, with hundreds of thousands showing up to watch him. In fact, they were so successful that the State Department would sometimes cancel Armstrong’s tours in the U.S. to extend his overseas tours.

Criticisms Of The Movement

Via Messy Nessy Chic / Image © Stevan Kragujević

Satchmo often noted that he experienced more equality in the countries he was touring in than in America. Indeed, part of the jazz ambassador program was to make the United States look good in the face of racism accusations. Some of the ambassadors, including Satchmo, even made an entire musical to mock the program, calling it “The Real Ambassadors.” Even though it was made to mock, some of the songs were very touching.

The Jazz Revolution

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As part of this program, David Brubeck toured the Soviet Union, whose government called jazz repulsive and poisonous. Just listening to jazz before these tours could get you sent to a labor camp if you lived in the Soviet Union. To a much lesser degree, even in America the jazz genre was considered somewhat taboo and rebellious. Nevertheless, Soviets and Americans both continued using it to protest politics and spread their beliefs. Even after the tours ended in the 1970s, jazz and music in general are still used as political statements that have the potential to spread worldwide. Music has a way of bringing people together, doesn’t it?

WATCH: Louis Armstrong Plays In Ghana

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Via James T. Wood

Featured image via Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain

Source: Messy Nessy Chic

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