Black diplomats, civil Rights & The Cold War
About The Film
Changing State (working title) is a feature-length documentary that examines the experience of African American diplomats serving during the Cold War. At the height of the civil rights movement in the US, these men and women represented the best of American ideals abroad while facing discrimination at home. Colloquially referred to as “male, pale, and Yale,” the State Department fiercely maintained and cultivated the Foreign Service's elite character and was one of the last Federal agencies to truly desegregate.
And, yet, three African American diplomats would push past these historical and institutional racial barriers to reach high-ranking appointments in the Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations; creating a lasting impact on the content and character of the US Foreign Service and literally changing the face of American diplomacy forever.
Directed by FLOWSTATE Films Co-Founder and Senior Producer, Leola Calzolai-Stewart, Changing State represents Leola's directorial debut on a project she has been passionate about for many years, dating back to her graduate work at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. We are also proud to announce that award-winning filmmaker Sam Pollard (Eyes On the Prize, Four Little Girls, When the Levees Broke) has joined our team as Executive Producer. Kiley Kraskouskas and Rachell Shapiro of FLOWSTATE Films will also serve as co-producers on the project. Black Diplomacy is fiscally sponsored by Women in Film & Video.
FLOWSTATE Films is the recipient of two major awards in support of Changing State. The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, an organization dedicated to promoting the humanities in Virginia since 1974, awarded the project a $5,000 grant to assist in developing the story of Edward R. Dudley, the first African American ambassador and a Virginia native. FLOWSTATE Films is also proud to announce that the National Endowment for the Humanities recently offered Black Diplomacy a $60,000 award to support script development for the film. It’s an honor to be recognized by two organizations with long traditions of supporting the humanities through film.
As an independent project, Black Diplomacy needs to raise additional funds for development and production. If you are interested in making a tax-deductible donation you can do so through Women in Film & Video.
Through a wealth of archival sources and the voices of family members, colleagues, historians, and current diplomats, Changing State, explores the lives and legacies of Edward R. Dudley, Terrence Todman, and Carl T. Rowan. Each broke racial barriers in different ways, paving a legacy for a more diverse State Department that better reflects the world in which it serves. The film reveals the never-before-told story of these men and their bid to narrow the gap between principle and practice in American diplomacy for generations to come.
Changing State's Advisory Team is made up of some of the top scholars in the field examining the cross section of race, civil rights, and international affairs. The team includes:
- Michael L. Krenn, Professor of History at Appalachian State University and author of the book that inspired this project, Black Diplomacy, African Americans and the State Department 1945-1969.
- Brenda Gayle Plummer, Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, is one of the most respected scholars working in the field of African American studies, civil rights, and foreign policy. Her award winning book, Rising Wind, brought new and overdue attention to the often-ignored involvement of African Americans in international affairs.
- Mary Dudziak, Asa Griggs Professor of Law at Emory University, and author of Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy. Dudziak’s book is a key text in examining the impact of domestic race relations on U.S. foreign policy during the early Cold War period.
- Carol Anderson, Professor of History and African American Studies at Emory University; Anderson's books Eyes Off the Prize: The United Nations and the African-American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944-1955 and Bourgeois Radicals: The NAACP and the Struggle for Colonial Liberation, 1941-1960 provide an in-depth look at the leading African American organization working on issues of foreign policy during the Cold War period and the important linkages African Americans drew between domestic race relations and international struggles for freedom.
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