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Black American Literature in Soviet Russia

Literature played a crucial role in Soviet understandings of the concept of race and racial identity, as seen in the translation of Eugene O'Neill's play All God’s Chillun Got Wings into Russian, depicting interracial challenges in the United States. In contrast, Soviet children’s books, like Anzel’mas Matutis’ work, projected a utopian vision, emphasizing racial equality. The 1950s showcased a shift in Soviet propaganda, emphasizing racial harmony within its borders compared to the dire existence that Black Americans led in the United States.

The influence of Soviet writers, including Gorky and Mayakovsky, on Langston Hughes is evident in educational materials for Russian speakers learning English. This period also saw the reprinting of children's books like Mal’chik Rob in languages of the Soviet Union, emphasizing Soviet equality for all races and nationalities.

As the narrative progressed, the Soviet Union continued to accentuate Black liberation, evident in books like Bekker's My Africa, a narrative poem, underscoring heroism and racial identity.

James Patterson's exploration of identity in Russia. Africa reflects the complexities of being Russian, African, and American. His family’s chronicle, Chronicle of the Left Hand, provides perspectives on racism and slavery in the U.S., and African Americans’ journeys to the USSR.

The translated script of Larry Pierce’s film and collections of Black American poetry further illustrate the evolving portrayal of racial themes. Baldwin’s works contribute to this narrative, pointing out the significance of Black experiences across borders. The intersection of literature, translation, and socio-political contexts reveals the evolving landscape of racial narratives from the early Soviet period to the late 1970s.

Black American Literature in Soviet Russia