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Dizzy Gillespie for President

Black History Month

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Dizzy for President: the Power of Jazz


Dizzy Gillespie’s presidential run first began as joke when his booking agency produced pins that said “Dizzy Gillespie for President”. But during times when the Civil Rights Movement was reaching a peak and African-Americans were becoming more frustrated he was convinced by Jean Gleason, the wife of Jazz writer Ralph Gleason to make his run for president official. As Dizzy said in his autobiography "I never thought the time would come when I'd vote for Lyndon B. But I'd rather burn in hell than vote for Barry G".

In the summer of 1963 Dizzy’s campaign began in Chicago at a rally organized by the Gleasons. Soon the “Dizzy for President” badges were seen all over the country at rallies for CORE (Congress of Racial Equality). Dizzy claimed if elected he would fight for Civil Rights and equal opportunity in the job market. Gillespie also said those applying for jobs "have to wear sheets over their heads so bosses won't know what they are until after they've been hired". Dizzy also said he would end the war in Vietnam, give full diplomatic recognition to China and health care and education would be free. Ramona Crowell was selected to be the Vice-President, Miles Davis the director of the C.I.A., Louis Armstrong as Minister of Agriculture, Thelonious Monk the Roving Ambassador Plenipotentiary, Charles Mingus the Minister of Peace as well as roles for Ella Fitzgerald, Max Roach, Peggy Lee, Woody Herman, Ray Charles and Count Basie.

Though the campaign didn’t result in a victory for Gillespie, Dizzy said that it was not merely a publicity stunt. "Anybody could of made a better president than the ones we had in those times, dilly-dallying about protecting blacks in their civil and human rights and carrying on secret wars against people around the world. I didn't think there was any choice. I had a real reason for running because the proceeds from the sale of the buttons went to Core and SCLC the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, whose president was Dr Martin Luther King, Jr , and I could threaten the Democrats with a loss of votes and swing them to a more reasonable position on civil rights."

Dizzy Gillespie Live At Ralph Gleason's Jazz Casual TV series.
January 17, 1961.

Trumpet: Dizzy Gillespie
Piano: Lalo Schifrin
Alto Sax: Leo Wright
Bass: Bob Cunnigham
Drums: Chuck Lampkin

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