Changing State:

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. 

Carl T. Rowan with President John F. Kennedy, Jr.  (Photo Credit: JFK Memorial Library)

Carl T. Rowan with President John F. Kennedy, Jr.

(Photo Credit: JFK Memorial Library)

Ambassador Edward R. Dudley (Photo Credit:  ADST )

Ambassador Edward R. Dudley (Photo Credit: ADST)

Media Team

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.  Changing State is fiscally sponsored by Women in Film & Video.


FLOWSTATE Films is the recipient of three 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.  The National Endowment for the Humanities gave Changing State a $60,000 award to support script development for the film. In addition, the NEH awarded the film a $450,000 production grant to complete the film. In order for NEH to release the funds of the award, FLOWSTATE must raise the rest of the $370,000 production budget. It’s an honor to be recognized by two organizations with long traditions of supporting the humanities through film.

As an independent project, Changing State 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. 

Ambassador Terence Todman with Thurgood Marshall  (Photo Credit:  ADST  and Todman family)

Ambassador Terence Todman with Thurgood Marshall

(Photo Credit: ADST and Todman family)

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.  


Advisory Team

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:


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