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Response to Number23 (Original post)

Mon Jun 6, 2016, 03:08 AM

74. Well...here was something I just learned about a couple of weeks ago.

African Americans and Cuba's First Experiment in Tourism: The Joe Louis Commission in Post Revolutionary Havana, 1959-1960

...This enlarged his personal powers and involved him directly in the administration of all new government programs. As president of the National Tourist Institute, Castro launched a campaign to revive Cuba’s tourist industry.

During the spring of 1959, Castro contacted former boxing champion Joe Louis through Rowe-Louis-Fischer-Lockhart, Inc., an advertising firm based in New York City. Joe Louis and Billy Rowe, a former columnist with the Pittsburgh Courier, had been long-time friends and partners in this advertising business since 1935. The former heavy weight champion helped Rowe recruit clients, made commercial appearances, and participated in social and promotional events arranged by wealthy businessmen who wanted to bask in the fame and national prominence of the Brown Bomber.

Castro, who witnessed the glory years of Louis’s boxing career as a Cuban youth in the 1930s, also admired Louis’s athletic achievements and his struggle against overwhelming disadvantages as the son of an Alabama sharecropper and great grandson of a slave. The accomplishments of the former boxing champion captured the imagination of African America, elevated the Brown Bomber to the status of the first black hero in white America, and made Joe Louis an international celebrity among colonial subjects who had battled the ravages of American and European imperialism. The Cuban leader also understood that Joe Louis could provide the first serious link with middle-class African Americans. They had tourist dollars to spend but were prohibited by “Jim Crow” restrictions that were standard problems for African American travelers throughout resort venues in the Caribbean. Louis eventually assembled an impressive delegation of seventy-one prominent leaders, personalities, and newspaper editors who were all well-known throughout black America. Noted members of this delegation included: John H. Sengstacke, Sr., publisher and general editor of the Chicago Daily Defender, the largest black owned daily in the world, and co-founder and past president of the National Negro Publishers Association; Attorney Loren Miller, the editor-publisher and legal counsel for the California Eagle; and Carl Murphy, editor and publisher of the Baltimore Afro-American. Other participants represented the Pittsburgh Courier, the New Orleans Louisiana Weekly, the Los Angeles Sentinel, the Ohio Sentinel, the Philadelphia Tribune, Johnson Publications (Ebony Magazine and Jet Magazine), the Cleveland Call Post, True Magazine, and the New York Amsterdam News.

The Joe Louis Commission was given official governmental recognition in Cuba but in the United States the white press viewed this effort as solely another commercial venture by the former boxing champion desperately seeking to satisfy pressing financial obligations. As American-Cuban diplomatic relations rapidly deteriorated in 1960, Louis’s activities in the island were chastised as supportive of a communist inspired regime. The mindset of Cold War policy makers and their anticommunism supporters viewed indigenous challenges to American international supremacy as Communist orchestrated. Ironically, while Louis was attacked, white owned corporations continued to do business with the new revolutionary government.


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December 31, 1959 Havana, Cuba

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