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How did jazz become popular in Europe?

Jazz became popular in Europe largely due to the efforts of African American soldiers who stayed behind on the continent after two world wars and created the first European and international audiences for jazz.

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As part of its propaganda efforts during the early stages of the Cold War, the Eisenhower administration sought to exploit the popularity of jazz in Europe. The whole purpose of this endeavor was to win converts to the American way of life and, in the process, blunt charges of institutionalized...

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As part of its propaganda efforts during the early stages of the Cold War, the Eisenhower administration sought to exploit the popularity of jazz in Europe. The whole purpose of this endeavor was to win converts to the American way of life and, in the process, blunt charges of institutionalized racism leveled against the United States by the Soviet Union and her allies.

Jazz was a quintessentially American art form. What's more, it was an African American art form. These two characteristics of jazz made jazz musicians the ideal Cold War ambassadors, the right kind of people to tour the world promoting American values and thus enhancing the United States's soft power.

The popularity of jazz in Europe was largely the handiwork of African American soldiers who stayed behind on the continent after both world wars. For example, members of the Fifteenth Heavy Foot Infantry Regiment during World War I—more commonly known as the Harlem Hellfighters—chose to remain in Paris after the war instead of returning to America.

Before long, they'd established a thriving community on the Right Bank of Paris, a place where they were free from the racial discrimination and lack of employment opportunities that they would expect to encounter back home.

In due course, they would create a vigorous jazz scene that would spread throughout all of Europe. The widespread appreciation of jazz on the continent meant that American musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Dizzy Gillespie played to large and enthusiastic audiences on their many European tours. It was precisely this enthusiasm that the State Department wished to exploit for the purpose of Cold War propaganda.

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