The Russian Revolution and Soviet declarations of internationalism, antiracism and anticolonialism captured the imagination of Black American radicals in the interwar period. Prominent figures like Claude McKay, W. E. B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, and Louise Thompson and lesser ones like Lovett Fort-Whiteman, Harry Haywood and Otto Husiwoud travelled to the USSR to see this “raceless” society for themselves. What was the Black experience and engagement with Soviet communism and how did that inform their politics? Here’s a conversation I had with Meredith Roman and Minkah Makalani on the African American relationship with the USSR, the Soviet promise of antiracism, and its impact on the American and Pan-African liberation struggles in the 20th century.
Meredith Roman is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Brockport, and the author of Opposing Jim Crow: African Americans and the Soviet Indictment of U.S. Racism, 1928-1937. Her current research focuses on dissent, human rights, and repression in the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War.
Minkah Makalani is associate professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of In the Cause of Freedom: Radical Black Internationalism from Harlem to London, 1917-1939, and co-editor (with Davarian Baldwin) of Escape from New York: The New Negro Renaissance beyond Harlem. He is currently working on two projects. Calypso Conquered the World: C.L.R. James and the Politically Unimaginable in Trinidad is a study of C. L. R. James’s return to Trinidad and his work on West Indies Federation. And Words Past the Margin: Black Thinking Through the Impossible, which explores streams of black political imagination in popular culture, Black Lives Matter, hip-hop, and the cinema of Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène.
I. Roy, “Black Man Time,” Radio Clash, 2004.