Lesson Plan

Jazz Ambassadors: A Model for Cultural Diplomacy

Reproduction of painting of Duke Ellington at the piano
Photo caption

Duke Ellington program for Damascus, Syria with reproduction painting of Duke at the piano, 1963.

When you think about diplomacy, you may first imagine ambassadors or even the Secretary of State. But the U.S. has a long history of using the arts and humanities to influence international opinion—a practice known as cultural diplomacy. This lesson plan unpacks the principles of cultural diplomacy through an exploration of  the Cold War “Jazz Ambassadors.” Students also investigate differing viewpoints of this program through historic newspapers and other primary source documents. Finally, students are asked to design their own program for cultural diplomacy.  

Guiding Questions

What is cultural diplomacy?

What role do the arts and humanities play in shaping international opinion?

How do domestic affairs impact international policies and actions?

Learning Objectives

Understand the practice of cultural diplomacy as a tool for building international relationships.

Analyze print media to interpret differing perspectives in terms of motivation and reception of cultural diplomacy. 

Create a proposal for a new State Department program that demonstrates the principles of cultural diplomacy.