African Americans in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s: The Development of Transcontinental Protest

By Garder, John L. | The Western Journal of Black Studies, Fall 1999 | Go to article overview

African Americans in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s: The Development of Transcontinental Protest


Garder, John L., The Western Journal of Black Studies


Introduction

The end of World War I ushered in a new era for African Americans who had been radicalized by their participation in the war and were resisting an oppressive second-class citizenship at home. There were numerous organizations activating the struggle of African Americans for the reestablishment of their civil rights. Among these organizations was the newly formed Communist Party of the United States of America. Communist doctrine advocating racial equality and the success of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia precipitated African American travel from the U.S. to the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 30s. Accounts of Black travelers' experiences in the Soviet Union, dialogue surrounding race relations there and the development of a Communist Party platform on the "Negro Question" may have encouraged further Black enthusiasm in travel to the USSR. African Americans went to the Soviet Union both in search of a permanent solution to White supremacy and seeking respite from dis-enfranchisement at home, as is evidenced by the experiences of Harry Haywood, Oliver Golden and Langston Hughes, in particular.

The phenomenon of African American travel to the Soviet Union during this period was shaped by a dynamic web of social, political and economic factors. The work and experiences of those Blacks who went to the USSR heightened the interest of the African American community in Communist ideology and aided in emboldening individuals to struggle for their rights. In this manner, those African American individuals who traveled to the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 30s contributed to the newly radicalized movement for Black liberation.

Antecedents

During World War I, several hundreds of thousands of African Americans migrated to urban areas, particularly in the North, seeking to escape racial violence and substandard living conditions in the South. While many Blacks found work in new locations, conditions were difficult everywhere. The Ku Klux Klan was active in Northern as well as Southern areas and regularly attempted to terrify and intimidate Blacks. Lynching, too, was increasing in both the North and South. Northern neighborhoods were racially segregated and rent was high, health conditions were poor, and access to quality education and health care were questionable. Jobs were even more scarce after WWI and competition for those jobs strained Black-White relations to new heights (Franklin & Moss, 1988).(1)

The advent of World War I provided African Americans with the opportunity for military service. Most in the community felt that military service would prove their loyalty to the country and then the government would surely recognize African Americans as full, loyal citizens of the United States. The government, however, was intent on maintaining legal disenfranchisement despite the service of African Americans in Europe. Rather than disestablish racial barriers during the war years, the government instead sought to preserve segregation and social inequality. This became increasingly clear to Black troops serving in France.

The U.S. government sought to induce the French to treat Black troops as racial inferiors. This effort to maintain a veneer of normative White supremacy was likely an attempt to prepare Black troops for a postwar return to social inequality in the U.S. The French, however, refused to succumb to these measures. Instead, Black troops experienced a greater level of social equality in France than they had known at home, intermingling more freely with French men and women (Franklin & Moss, 1988).(2) Some service men later became associated with the Communist Party in the United States based on their experiences in France. Harry Haywood was one and he praised the hospitality of the French people towards African American troops, including invitations to the troops to join families for food and wine. Concluding that the "long arm of Jim Crow" was inescapable, Haywood illustrated the attempts of White U. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

African Americans in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s: The Development of Transcontinental Protest
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.