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Part 9: Czechs and the American Civil Rights Movement

Barack Obama in Prague, 2009, photo: Štěpánka Budková

Czech interest in African American culture goes back to the 19th century.  When Antonín Dvořák spent three years in the United States in the 1890s he explored African American and Native American musical traditions, seeing parallels with the Czech experience of living under Austrian domination.  In the Czechoslovakia of the 1920s and 30s, interest in American jazz spread rapidly and Native American culture was romanticised in the so-called “tramping” movement. After the war communist Czechoslovakia was quick to point to discrimination and segregation in the United States and encouraged civil rights activists to visit the country.  The voices of some of these visitors are preserved in the Czech Radio archives.  And two decades after the fall of communism the first African American US President visited Prague.  This long and fascinating connection is the subject of the ninth programme in our series looking at aspects of Czech and Czechoslovak history through the sound archives.

You can find a transcript of the podcast at:

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