Leslie Odom Jr., Quincy Jones, & More Featured in Upcoming PBS Documentary THE JAZZ AMBASSADORS

Leslie Odom Jr., Quincy Jones, & More Featured in Upcoming PBS Documentary THE JAZZ AMBASSADORS

The Cold War and Civil Rights movement collide in the broadcast premiere of The Jazz Ambassadors on Friday, May 4 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). The documentary will be available to stream the following day (May 5) online at pbs.organd PBS apps.

This remarkable story of music, diplomacy and race explores how America's most famous jazz musicians -- Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Dave Brubeck -- became America's most important cultural ambassadors. In 1955, as the Soviet Union's pervasive propaganda about the U.S. and American racism spread globally, African-American Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. convinced President Eisenhower that jazz was the best way to intervene in the Cold War cultural conflict. Narrated by Leslie Odom, Jr., the documentary features new interviews with Quincy Jones, Adam Clayton Powell III, and others.

The Cold War and Civil Rights movement collide in this remarkable story of music, diplomacy and race. In 1955, as the Soviet Union's pervasive propaganda about the U.S. and American racism spread globally, African-American Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. convinced President Eisenhower that jazz was the best way to intervene in the Cold War cultural conflict. For the next decade, America's most influential jazz artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington,Benny Goodman and 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. Leslie Odom, Jr., narrates.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride

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