Home > Events > Strains of Freedom: Jazz Diplomacy and the Paradox of Civil Rights

  • About the event


    “America’s secret weapon is a blue note in a minor key,” proclaimed the New York Times. In the late 1950’s, President Eisenhower looked to fight the Cold War using the cool weapon of jazz. The State Department hoped that showcasing popular American music around the globe would not only introduce audiences to American culture, but also win them over as ideological allies in the cold war. Jazz, structured around improvisation within a set of commonly agreed-upon boundaries, was a perfect metaphor for America in the eyes of the State Department. Renowned artists such as Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Dave Brubeck toured the globe promoting United States’ culture. Brubeck’s father would famously announce before the crowds, “No dictatorship can tolerate jazz, it is the first sign of a return to freedom.” Join us to explore how the U.S. State Department contracted jazz performers to fight the Cold War in the form of Jazz Diplomacy.


    Dr. Dulaney HeadshotDr. W. Marvin Dulaney is an adjunct professor at UNT Dallas and President of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History who has dedicated his forty-two-year career to teaching American and African American history. As an emeritus associate professor of history, former interim director of the Center for African American Studies, and past chair of the department of history at the University of Texas, Arlington, he has left a significant impact on academia. Dulaney is a graduate of Central State University and Ohio State University and has actively engaged with communities in Charleston and Dallas-Fort Worth as part of his commitment to bring history to the people. His extensive service on boards, including the Texas State Historical Association, and his numerous publications showcase his dedication to preserving and advancing African American history and civil rights. Dr. Dulaney is currently working on a history of African Americans in Dallas.

    Rick Ruth Headshot

    Rick Ruth is a dedicated builder committed to creating institutions that uphold individual dignity and reject violence and extremism. As a senior State Department official on 9/11, he played a crucial role in guiding the department’s response and proposed the U.S. government’s inaugural high school exchange program for the Arab and Muslim world, known today as the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program. This program has engaged more than 15,000 young individuals from 40+ countries. Ruth’s innovative approach involves countering disinformation through positively focused cross-border networks and establishing the State Department’s first global alumni network. He introduced cultural heritage as a non-political component of American leadership and rescued the Summer Work Travel program. A skilled global diplomat, particularly focused on Russia and the Middle East, Ruth is a recipient of the Department of State’s Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy and the 2016 Alumnus of the Year at the University of Arizona’s College of Humanities.

    Emily Abrams Ansari

    Emily Abrams Ansari is Assistant Dean of Research and Associate Professor of Music History at Western University in Canada. Her scholarly research, which has won a number of awards, examines music’s political usages and engagements across the Americas. Her 2017 book, The Sound of a Superpower: Musical Americanism and the Cold War, explored the effects of the Cold War on musical nationalism in the United States and classical composers’ involvement with federally-funded cultural diplomacy initiatives. Her current projects interrogate Cold War-era music in El Salvador and Canada.