Freedom Fighters: Martha Graham and Ronald Reagan Celebrate Berlin’s 750th Birthday, 1987


Date: Mar 02, 2016

Please join the Harriman Institute’s Program on U.S.-Russia Relations and the European Institute for a talk by Victoria Phillips, Lecturer in History at the European Institute and Associate Faculty at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan traveled to Berlin for the East-German led celebration of the 750th anniversary of the city. With East Germany charging that the United States was preventing peace and a united city, the West responded. From the erudite works of modern dancer Martha Graham, Holiday on Ice, and rock bands, cultural exports abounded. During the “Rock ‘im Roll” concert the day before President Ronald Reagan’s speech, with West Berlin leaders turning speakers towards the East, the youth chanted, “Tear down this wall.” Inspired by his own views and perhaps the events of the previous day, Reagan demanded, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” In newspaper promotional shots, the First Lady wore a cowboy hat and blew out candles on a tiered cake to celebrate events. With Nancy Reagan and Martha Graham supporting one another with galas and events and personal letters in the United States, six months later Graham and her company crossed through Checkpoint Charlie and her soloist performed Graham’s famous work Frontier, the story of a pioneer woman in the American West.

Victoria Phillips is a Lecturer in History at the European Institute and Associate Faculty at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, where she received her Ph.D. She specializes in cold war history, cultural diplomacy, and international relations. She is completing her book for Oxford University Press, The Dance of American Diplomacy, which explores modern dancer Martha Graham’s State Department tours between 1955 and 1987. Her articles have appeared in publications including the New York TimesAmerican Communist History, Dance ChronicleBallet News, and Dance Research Journal.

Date: Mar 02, 2016

Please join the Harriman Institute’s Program on U.S.-Russia Relations and the European Institute for a talk by Victoria Phillips, Lecturer in History at the European Institute and Associate Faculty at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan traveled to Berlin for the East-German led celebration of the 750th anniversary of the city. With East Germany charging that the United States was preventing peace and a united city, the West responded. From the erudite works of modern dancer Martha Graham, Holiday on Ice, and rock bands, cultural exports abounded. During the “Rock ‘im Roll” concert the day before President Ronald Reagan’s speech, with West Berlin leaders turning speakers towards the East, the youth chanted, “Tear down this wall.” Inspired by his own views and perhaps the events of the previous day, Reagan demanded, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” In newspaper promotional shots, the First Lady wore a cowboy hat and blew out candles on a tiered cake to celebrate events. With Nancy Reagan and Martha Graham supporting one another with galas and events and personal letters in the United States, six months later Graham and her company crossed through Checkpoint Charlie and her soloist performed Graham’s famous work Frontier, the story of a pioneer woman in the American West.

Victoria Phillips is a Lecturer in History at the European Institute and Associate Faculty at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, where she received her Ph.D. She specializes in cold war history, cultural diplomacy, and international relations. She is completing her book for Oxford University Press, The Dance of American Diplomacy, which explores modern dancer Martha Graham’s State Department tours between 1955 and 1987. Her articles have appeared in publications including the New York TimesAmerican Communist History, Dance ChronicleBallet News, and Dance Research Journal.

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