Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of History

Committee Chair

Michael Mayer

Commitee Members

Robert Greene, Patrick Peel


Cultural Exchange, Jazz, Cold War, Soviet Union


University of Montana

Subject Categories

United States History


This thesis examines federally funded jazz tours as an expression of international cultural exchanges during the Cold War, specifically from 1956 to 1964. This thesis argues that the use of cultural exchanges represented one outgrowth of an expanded federal government after World War II. Furthermore, cultural exchanges were an expression of “soft power” during the Cold War, or power expressed by the nation through cultural means instead of the projection of military power. The division between public and private spheres in American life was often blurred. As the government’s influence grew, the American National Theater and Academy (ANTA) blended theses spheres by its very existence as an organization chartered by the federal government yet privately operated, with the purpose of advising the State Department and administering cultural exchanges. The State Department tended to send classical groups to Europe, and the developing world received more jazz tours. While some cultural affairs offices with the State Department expressed racial attitudes that were demeaning towards the ethnic groups in their host countries, the government sent different kinds of groups to different regions primarily for strategic reasons. Even as the government used jazz musicians in order to further its strategic interests, the musicians gained professional exposure and furthered their careers. Black jazz artists also found opportunities to advance the cause of black equality through coverage of their tours in American media outlets. American journalists overwhelmingly supported cultural exchanges, and that support translated into support for international jazz tours sponsored by the government. Since most of those tours were conducted by black musicians, the media’s support for the jazz tours created a positive image for black Americans as a whole. While the government intended the use of soft power to influence international audiences, cultural exchanges had unintended consequences at home as well. Also, government funding increased dramatically for jazz tours relative to classical tours from 1956 to 1964. While officials in the government generally only considered cultural exchanges from a strategic standpoint, the media also portrayed the exchanges through an idealistically positive lens. However, both the idealistic viewpoints and the strategic considerations supported cultural exchanges and jazz tours.



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