The American trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong was used, without his knowledge, as a cover by the CIA during his tour of the Congo in 1960, in the middle of the cold war.
This information, hitherto unpublished, was revealed by Susan Williams, researcher at London University’s School, in the book White Malice, which unveils Central Intelligence operations in Central and West Africa in the 1950s and early 1960s.
“Armstrong was basically used as a ‘Trojan horse’ for the CIA. It’s truly heartbreaking, he was brought up to serve an interest that was completely contrary to his sense of right or wrong. He would have been horrified, “explained the author of the work in a chronicle of the ANSA agency.
A long African tour
The famous jazz artist was in the middle of a long tour of Africa, organized and promoted by the Department of State to improve the image of the United States in dozens of countries that had just freed themselves from colonial regimes.
Louis Armstrong, in the New York borough of Queens, where he lived much of his life.
Armstrong, who was represented by Joe Glaser, a shady merchant who had been linked to the mobster Al Capone did not know that the host of one of his performances was not the political attaché, but the head of the CIA in the Congo.
In addition, he was the one who seized the opportunity to gather crucial information that would facilitate some of the most controversial operations of the CIA during all the years of the Cold War.
One of the places that aroused the most interest was the Katanga region, rich in minerals, mainly uranium. According to Williams in his book, at that time and for fear that Patrice Lumumba, the then president of the Congo elected at the polls, would align himself with Russia, the CIA planned to eliminate him.
Two months after Armstrong’s tour, in January 1961, Lumumba was finally assassinated and that made it possible for Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, who had collaborated with the US agency, to come to power in the African country.
Louis Armstrong made jazz popular. AP Photo
A popular genius
Louis Armstrong, Satchmo, as he was popularly known, was born in one of the slums of New Orleans in 1901 and, since he was a child, he suffered racism firsthand. But it was his early talent that allowed him to find a patron who helped him study music to begin his long journey as a jazz figure.
His musical talent, first as a trumpet player and later also as a singer, added to his outgoing personality and his enormous charisma, established him as one of the most popular figures in the United States and who, in addition, transcended the whole world.
Various songs like Hello Dolly and What a Wonderful World, became emblematic in his unmistakable voice. Armstrong’s relationship with Africa was very close, in honor of his origins. For this reason, the musician frequently visited that continent with the aim of showing the cultural connection between him, an icon of African-American music, with the nations that were beginning an independent life at that time.
Due to his position in favor of the liberation of the colonialism of the new African countries and the enormous fame that Armstrong had throughout the world, the CIA took advantage of his figure to carry out espionage tasks, something with which Satchmo would not have agreed. The musician died in 1971, a month before his seventieth birthday.