Louis Armstrong’s Daughter Stirs Audience with Powerful Film

A still from the movie Little Satchmo. Courtesy of John Alexander.

On January 30, a sold-out crowd at Studio@620 had the rare pleasure of screening the acclaimed PBS film Little Satchmo, followed by a talk with the film’s subject and star, Louis Armstrong’s “secret” daughter, Sharon Preston-Folta. 

Green Book of Tampa Bay and the Woodson African American Museum presented the event, which was sponsored by the Pinellas County Urban League. Therapist Dr. LaDonna Butler moderated the post-screening “fireside chat,” which packed a powerful emotional punch. 

“I was unprepared for the magic that happened during the whole event,” said Green Book of Tampa Bay co-founder Hillary Van Dyke. “It truly led to healing for some people, and I can’t thank Sharon enough for being brave enough to create a film that would allow others to process their own traumas and maybe find their own voices to heal.”

Louis Armstrong’s daughter, Sharon Preston-Folta, is the subject and star of Little Satchmo. Photo courtesy of John Alexander

Little Satchmo is a poignant portrayal of the life of Louis Armstrong’s daughter, a little girl burdened by the weight of her father’s fame and unable to openly acknowledge their relationship. The film delves into the emotional complexities of navigating identity and connection in the shadow of a larger-than-life figure,” said participant Dr. Loretta Caldwell Thompson. “The poignant narrative invites viewers to contemplate the profound impact of fame on personal relationships and the human desire for acceptance and belonging.”

The screening and chat turned into a memorable, even cathartic experience, say participants and organizers, inspired not only by the film’s themes, but by the uniqueness of this community.  

“St. Petersburg is a very connected and involved community, especially with the arts and storytelling. This was the perfect setting. Different from any panel I’ve seen,” said Sierra Umberger, associate producer for the film. “I had a few conversations with audience members who felt very touched by the film, some folks even holding back or shedding tears…. I think the conversation about the impact and interpretation of the film from viewers will have the conversation continuing for a while.”