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James Lloydovich Patterson
July 1, 2013 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Black Soviet Icon's Lonely American Sojourn: For decades Jim Patterson was arguably the most famous black man in the Soviet Union, a debonair homegrown poet whose childhood role in an iconic film cemented his celebrity and who later roamed the vast country reading his work to adoring audiences. These days Patterson, whose African-American father emigrated to the Soviet Union in 1932, is convalescing in a threadbare subsidized apartment in downtown Washington, where he has led a reclusive life plagued by illness and depression since his Russian mother died more than a decade ago.
posted by Cash4Lead (16 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
...he has led a reclusive life plagued by illness and depression since his Russian mother died more than a decade ago.

Does this sentence pretty much have to be included in every story about an aging Soviet leftover?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:30 AM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's some sort of Federal Mandate there 10th...
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:59 AM on July 1, 2013


I never knew about him until I read this post; a very interesting story!
posted by Renoroc at 11:03 AM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


“One group said, ‘We want to make him an admiral,’” Patterson recalled. “And the writers said: ‘No, he’s closer to us. You can make an admiral out of anyone.’”
posted by b1tr0t at 11:26 AM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wish he'd write an autobiography.
posted by Area Man at 11:54 AM on July 1, 2013


Jeebus, did every country have a film in the 1930s that had to do with some sort of "miscegenation/passing" panic?
posted by droplet at 12:11 PM on July 1, 2013


Jeebus, did every country have a film in the 1930s that had to do with some sort of "miscegenation/passing" panic?

The historically shameful treatment of minorities in the "land of the free" was a gift for communist propagandists. If it wasn't for the traditional strength and sanctuary of the American Black churches, I wonder how many more Black Americans would have become out and out Communists.
posted by Renoroc at 12:50 PM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The historically shameful treatment of minorities in the "land of the free" was a gift for communist propagandists.

Sure, but only because the west's openness about airing it's weaknesses in the media. Meanwhile Stalin was deporting the Chechens to Kazakhstan and Jews to Siberia and the Chinese were systematically cleansing their "ethnic" regions through tax breaks, givaways, and relaxation of restrictive policies (e.g. One Child) for ethnic Hans that would take the first train to a new luxury apartment in Urumchi, Lhasa, Chengdu or Kunming*.

*This hasn't stopped.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:40 PM on July 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder how many more Black Americans would have become out and out Communists.

Richard Wright joined the American Communist Party for exactly this reason, but he didn't fit in very well with them. According to his excellent autobiography, they were too rigid in their thinking, and spent more time on Communist dogma and less time on racism in America.
posted by Melismata at 1:46 PM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fascinating and sad story. I'm not clear on why mother and son came here, where neither of them had lived, leaving behind a country they were familiar with—sure, life was hard there in the '90s, but a leap into the void is a desperate solution.

Here's the famous scene at the end of Цирк (Circus); the blonde is his "movie mom" Lyubov Orlova, and you can read all about the (very catchy) song here (the last couple of lines of the chorus, Я другой такой страны не знаю,/ Где так вольно дышит человек [I know of no other such country/ Where a man can breathe so freely], repeated at the end as the camera soars up over the Kremlin, are vividly ironic).

> Meanwhile Stalin was deporting the Chechens to Kazakhstan and Jews to Siberia and the Chinese were systematically cleansing their "ethnic" regions through tax breaks, givaways, and relaxation of restrictive policies

Dude, none of that was happening in the 1930s. I dislike communism as much as you do, but randomly conflating Bad Things from entirely different countries and eras is not a good way to make a point. There was a reason so many progressives were attracted to communism and the Soviet Union eighty years ago: the USSR, unlike the West, had no Great Depression and (as far as anyone outside could tell) no racial problem.
posted by languagehat at 1:54 PM on July 1, 2013


Have you read about Stalin and his history? He was nasty, nasty during the 1930s (as well as most of the rest of his reign). Don't even get me started on what he did in the Ukraine during that time.
posted by Melismata at 1:58 PM on July 1, 2013


Dude, none of that was happening in the 1930s.

Stalin "transferred" nearly 2 million people between 1930 and 1931 alone.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:58 PM on July 1, 2013


> Have you read about Stalin and his history?

Yes, I have both bios and histories. I'm perfectly familiar with his bad character and behavior.

> Stalin "transferred" nearly 2 million people between 1930 and 1931 alone.

Nice try. I was responding to the comment "Meanwhile Stalin was deporting the Chechens to Kazakhstan and Jews to Siberia and the Chinese were systematically cleansing their "ethnic" regions through tax breaks, givaways, and relaxation of restrictive policies." I repeat: none of that was happening in the 1930s.
posted by languagehat at 2:07 PM on July 1, 2013


There was a reason so many progressives were attracted to communism and the Soviet Union eighty years ago: the USSR, unlike the West, had no Great Depression and (as far as anyone outside could tell) no racial problem.

I'm actually not an anti-communist, but that is just not true, thousands died in famines after the Soviet revolution and ethnic horrors were going on, the progressives just weren't being told about that or believed potemkin propaganda of abundant harvests and happy workers.

Nice try. I was responding to the comment "Meanwhile Stalin was deporting the Chechens to Kazakhstan and Jews to Siberia and the Chinese were systematically cleansing their "ethnic" regions through tax breaks, givaways, and relaxation of restrictive policies." I repeat: none of that was happening in the 1930s.

Yes, you're right the Chechen deportations happened in the 40's while the Ukranians, Kazakhs, Circassians, and Tatars among others were getting the boot back then. I guess because I was off by a couple years in referring to the Chechens it means the hudreds of thousands of other ethnic deportees that died in the 1930s weren't all that important to the argument.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 2:18 PM on July 1, 2013


If you are stepping up for Stalin, you are on the wrong side of history, dude.
posted by SPrintF at 3:31 PM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never suspected languagehat to be such an ardent Stalinist, but it is clearly true.
posted by Nomyte at 7:47 PM on July 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


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