Private Project

A Diplomat of Consequence

A Diplomat of Consequence is the documentary about the first African American diplomat, Ebenezer D.Bassett. With his appointment in 1869 by President Ulysses Grant to be the U.S. diplomat in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Bassett was not just a symbolic breaking of color barrier.

Bassett’s courage and integrity at one of the most difficult and important foreign assignments of his time paved the way for other minorities after him. In Bassett’s work as a diplomat, we also find one of the early American defenders and advocates of international human rights. Single-handedly, he heroically saved thousands of lives even while battling his own government for support, negotiating during times of civil wars and refugee crises.

Ebenezer Bassett had been an abolitionist, educator, and activist during the U.S. Civil War. When the United States emerged from that war, friends such as Frederick Douglass pushed President Grant to appoint black Americans like Bassett to senior government positions. Bassett became the first American to integrate the diplomatic corps, leaving a lasting impact on U.S. foreign policy.

Bassett was a role model not simply for his symbolic importance, however. He was a civil rights leader and among the earliest advocates to promote human rights in foreign policy. His courage in the face of threats during his tenure place him among the greats of diplomatic and American history. Along with public archives on Bassett’s life, newly found information from family members and never before seen material from his four decade relationship with Frederick Douglass are explored in the documentary.

This is not just an historical documentary, however. Bassett’s legacy demonstrates to broader audiences what diplomats have accomplished and what they do in today’s complicated environment. Bringing in contemporary voices of minority diplomats is a crucial component of why diversity in foreign affairs still is imperative for successful engagement today.

A Diplomat of Consequence’s release in 2019 coincides with the 150th anniversary of Bassett’s historic diplomatic appointment to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

  • Christopher Teal
  • Christopher Teal
  • Christopher Teal
  • Bailey Netsch
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    47 hours
  • Completion Date:
    January 31, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    60,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Dominican Republic, Haiti, United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • DACOR Bacon Black History Month Debut
    United States
    February 7, 2019
  • George Washington University
    United States
    February 12, 2019
Director Biography - Christopher Teal

A career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the U.S. State Department, Christopher Teal is currently on a faculty assignment at the Inter-American Defense College at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. He teaches graduate classes to senior level Latin American officials on diplomacy, human rights, military/civilian relations, and defense/security policy.

He recently completed a sabbatical fellowship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He directed, wrote and produced a documentary on the first African-American diplomat, Ebenezer D. Bassett. The film, A Diplomat of Consequence, tells the story of this groundbreaking diplomat and pioneer on international human rights and examines the legacy of racial diversity today, 150 years after his appointment.

Mr. Teal previously served as the Consul General at the U.S. Consulate in Nogales, Mexico. He oversaw programs on bilateral security, economic and trade promotion and cross-border
exchanges between the United States and Mexico in the Sonora-Arizona region. His prior diplomatic assignments include: U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka; U.S. Consulate General in Guadalajara, Mexico; U.S. Embassy in Peru and at the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic. In Washington D.C. he also worked at the State Department’s Foreign Press Center and in the
European Bureau.

Before joining the Foreign Service, Prof. Teal worked with award-winning journalist Juan Williams on their biography Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary about the former U.S.
Supreme Court Justice. Published by Times Books/Random House in October 1998, The New York Times listed it among their most notable non-fiction works of the year. His biography
about Ebenezer Bassett, entitled Hero of Hispaniola, was published in 2008.

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