In 1954, the United States began using cultural tours in foreign policy to improve the world’s perception of American cultural and political life. Under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, cultural diplomacy became part of a broad American effort to invest the so-called “psychological dimension of power” to wage the Cold War. An important component of such an initiative was jazz diplomacy, which transformed relations between America and the Soviet Union while dramatically reshaping perceptions of the American identity worldwide. Paradoxically, jazz diplomacy also came to symbolize the cultural superiority of American democracy. This book explores how American jazz music was used as an instrument of global diplomacy and dramatically transformed superpower relations in the Cold War era by easing U.S.–Soviet political tensions in the midst of critical Cold War events such as the Little Rock crisis, the Cuban missile crisis, the Vietnam War, the dispute over the Berlin Wall, and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. It argues that America turned to jazz diplomacy to address the dual problems of race and culture in a global context.
Keywords: cultural tours, foreign policy, cultural diplomacy, Cold War, jazz diplomacy, America, Soviet Union, jazz music, race, culture