Leola Calzolai-Stewart is the co-founder of the Virginia-based production company FLOWSTATE Films where she currently directs and co-produces the historical documentary THE AMERICAN DIPLOMAT. The film explores the untold story of three African-American diplomats representing the United States overseas at the height of the civil rights movement and the Cold War. The project received support from Black Public Media, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and is Leola’s directorial debut. Leola previously edited the feature documentaries THE LAST SONG BEFORE THE WAR, distributed by Kino Smith, and DEAR WALMART which premiered in 2019 and is distributed by Virgil Films. Born and raised in San Francisco, Leola has an MA in International Affairs from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and she studied film in South Africa at Tshwane University of Technology.
The American Diplomat explores the lives and legacies of three African American ambassadors — Edward Dudley, Terence Todman and Carl Rowan — who pushed past historical and institutional racial barriers to reach high-ranking appointments in the Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. At the height of the civil rights movement in the United States, the three men were asked to represent the best of American ideals abroad while facing discrimination at home. Oft reputed as “pale, male and Yale,” the U.S. State Department fiercely maintained and cultivated the Foreign Service’s elitist character and was one of the last federal agencies to desegregate. Through rare archival footage, in-depth oral histories and interviews with family members, colleagues and diplomats, the film paints a portrait of three men who left a lasting impact on the content and character of the Foreign Service and changed American diplomacy forever.