Trojan horse

La vie en rose? How the CIA manipulated Louis Armstrong in the Congo

By Jaysim Hanspal

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Posted on September 16, 2021 16:00

7b51fa6e-louis-armstrong-congo-e1618483246422 Louis Armstrong in Kinshasa (formerly Leopoldville), 1960  © Louis Armstrong House Museum
Louis Armstrong in Kinshasa (formerly Leopoldville), 1960 © Louis Armstrong House Museum

Famous American jazz musician Louis Armstrong toured Africa many times; visits that were often orchestrated by the US State Department to build relations between Washington and recently decolonised regions of Africa.

As the ‘Goodwill Jazz Ambassador’ for the US in newly-independent Congo in October 1960, Armstrong sat at a table with his wife, and an individual he believed to be a US diplomat in Léopodville.

This was the beginning of a very different African tour. According to The Guardian, the Jazz star was completely unaware that he was being used as a ‘Trojan horse’ by the CIA officer, to gain access to  intelligence.

Armstrong and his All Stars band thrilled crowds across the then Gold Coast (now Ghana). Journalist Robert Raymond, in his book Black Star in the Wind, described the scene “as the animated mass of players and swinging people moved across the tarmac, gathering strength and impetus all the time, the noise and the clamour rose to the skies…The shouts and applause merged into a steady uproot…Quickly, without pausing, Armstrong swung into a fast driving number.”

Armstrong was basically a

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