Robbin Gallery Exhibition Celebrates Louis Armstrong Visit to Ghana
For two days in May 1956, Louis Armstrong visited the city of Accra, then the capital of the British Gold Coast Colony. Edward R. Murrow arranged the trip. Producer of the popular CBS television series See It Now, Murrow had visited Accra in 1954, and he was eager to see what impact the city’s cultural life might have on a performer like Louis Armstrong. Murrow was in the process of producing a documentary about Armstrong called The Saga of Satchmo, and he reasoned that capturing footage of Armstrong’s first encounter with Africa, the land of his ancestors, would make for powerful cinema.
Murrow reached out to a colonial officer in Accra named Jimmy Moxon for assistance in organizing Armstrong’s visit. Born in Britain and educated at Cambridge, Moxon had moved to Accra at age 22. By the time Armstrong arrived with his All Stars, Moxon was a District Commissioner, with close ties to both the entertainment industry and native African leaders such as Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah. Moxon often described the Armstrong visit to Accra as a life-changing event, not only for himself, but for the Gold Coast Colony, which was in the final stage of becoming the independent nation of Ghana. Sensing that Armstrong’s encounter with the people of Accra would be of historic significance, he documented every stage of the musician’s visit. This exhibition, curated by Anna Harwell Celenza, offers a selection of some of the mementos Moxon preserved.