COMING IN 2026: Louis Armstrong in Ghana, a multinational exhibit and music exchange commemorating the 70th anniversary of Armstrong’s initial concert tour to Accra

The singular exhibit, accompanying performances and educational workshops will explore Armstrong’s legacy as an American and global icon, navigating cultural and political complexities as he toured his music throughout the world. 

The Significance 

In the 1950’s and 60’s, the height of the American civil rights movement, Louis Armstrong toured throughout the continent of Africa, including the Gold Coast as it transitioned out of British colonial control to become the independent country of Ghana. 

The 60,000-piece Armstrong Archive includes an array of artifacts, recordings, pictures and documents pertaining to these tours. The new exhibition, debuting in 2026 and presented in both New York City and Accra, will utilize these archival items, alongside new recorded oral histories to explore the reciprocal cultural and political impact of Armstrong’s travels to the newly independent nation.

A focus on Ghana…  Most texts and media projects about Armstrong have focused on his domestic career. There is missing analysis and public discussion about Armstrong within a global context, his reception in those countries, and the tension of being a Black man representing America during the civil rights protests. This is especially urgent in relation to his trips throughout Africa. Armstrong first traveled to Ghana in 1956, just months after the start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to white patrons. He arrived one year before prime minister Nkrumah officially declared the country’s independence. Ghana was a unique destination in Armstrong’s travels where he experienced a powerful feeling of belonging and is the only African country he returned to more than once. Although his role as a representative of freedom and Black excellence was complicated by the structures of racism in America, by speaking against racism and segregation, Louis Armstrong called for the recognition of the humanity of African descendent people everywhere.

A Musical and Educational Exchange 

Building upon the successful Armstrong Now residency and signature programs, the project will engage with contemporary Ghanaian musicians to perform at the Museum. Additionally, musicians from the LAHM community will perforom in Accra, following in Armstrong’s footsteps. The  LAHM program team will also work with our teaching artists and the project’s scholars to devise a student curriculum relevant to young people in both the United States and Ghana.

Altogether, we anticipate the multi-site exhibit, online offerings, student curriculum and performances will reach more than 200,000 participants in both the United States and Ghana.

The People

LAHM has engaged a team of cultural scholars and organizational leaders, including: Charlotte Ashamu – Director of International Programs at Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage. Odile Tevie – Co-Founder and director of Nubuke Foundation, a visual arts and cultural institution, based in Accra and Wa Ghana. Fredara Mareva Hadley Ph.D. – Ethnomusicology professor in the Music History Department at The Juilliard School. Devin Walker – Director of Equity and Student Success at Cabrillo College. Samuel Boateng, Ph.D – Jazz pianist, composer, scholar in jazz studies and ethnomusicology. Maya Cunningham,  Africanist/African Americanist ethnomusicologist and Africana Studies Scholar. John Collins, PhD, Professor at the Music Department at the University of Ghana, Acting Chairman of the Bokoor African Popular Music Archives Foundation (BAPMAF). Penny Von Eschen – Professor of American Studies and Professor of History, University of Virginia and author of Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War. Hon. Fritz Baffour – Board Member of the W.E.B. Dubois Center in Accra and former Minister of Information.

Watch this space for further developments as we approach the launch of Armstrong in Ghana in 2026.