About those state department tours
A few days ago I asked for the group’s help in fleshing out what more there may be in “real” history to a “fictional” reference in a Fanny Flagg novel to goodwill tours sponsored by the State Department that may have included southern gospel. Today, my friend and AVFL reader Steve Shearon, a professor of musicology at MTSU, wrote in with the more comprehensive response to date:
Concerning all this, the analysis of Cold War-era cultural tours sponsored by the U.S. State Department has become a hot topic for scholars in the Society for American Music, spurred in part by use of the Freedom of Information Act and the opening of archives in formerly Communist nations. While good for many of the artists involved, these tours were essentially American propaganda, the use of soft power to combat the Soviet Union’s negative portrayals of American culture. Each side was trying to convince the citizens of Third World nations that their culture was superior. For that reason, the US government, which was being portrayed negatively because of our widely publicized oppression of African Americans, chose, when possible, to send integrated groups (e.g., The Dave Brubeck Quartet) and African American artists. (This caused some interesting situations, because many of the persons they encountered in other countries were no less bigoted against them than were many of their fellow Americans.) Heard an interesting paper at last month’s meeting, in fact, about the Af Am composer Ulysses Kay and his U.S.-sponsored, or Goodwill, tour. NOTE: At least some of these touring artists apparently engaged also in espionage. So, do you think there’s an untold sg story here?
Fascinating stuff. Thanks, Steve. Maybe somebody should write about that, eh?Email this Post