NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2013 - Page 172

170 Meanwhile, through his acquaintance with film critic Marie Seton, he was invited to Moscow in 1934 by film director Sergei Eisenstein. The latter wanted to make a film about the Haitian Revolution entitled Black Majesty, in which Robeson would play the role of Christophe or Dessalines, while the role of Toussaint L’ouverture was to be given to the actor Solomon Mikhoels. The film was never made, but Robeson was enthusiastic after his first visit to the ussr. He admired a country in which racism appeared to have been banned. As was the case for other African Americans before him, communism appeared above all to provide the promise of racial equality. In 1934, for example, the young journalist Henry Lee Moon wrote in The Nation that he felt more at home among the Russian people than anywhere else. 9 Stalin’s official policy in favor of national minorities also seemed to enhance the cultural development of the “Black Soul” and his support for independence movements in Asia and Africa promised to help set free colonized peoples. 10 All of this attracted such illustrious visitors as W. E. B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes and others. Two years earlier, in 1932, Langston Hughes had travelled with twenty-two black actors for the film Black and White which was to be the first Soviet film on segregation in the United States. This film was never made either: Langston Hughes was dissuaded from carrying out the project after reading the script, written in Social Realist style by a Russian author who clearly had no idea of the reality of life in the United States. But several of the actors decided to stay in the Soviet Union, including Wayland Rudd. 11 BRN-FALL-2013.indb 170 The atmosphere which seduced Paul Robeson on his arrival in Moscow contrasted strongly with the impression left on him by a stopover in Berlin shortly before. In the German capital, the Nazi authorities had expelled Robeson’s friends in the avant-garde theatre, most of them Jewish, and he himself had felt a vague threat. 12 In Moscow, it was quite the opposite: he was celebrated; grand receptions were organized in his honor and meetings were organized with fellow African Americans who had decided to stay in the ussr. He thus met his friend William L. Patterson, who had travelled to the Soviet capital in order to treat his tuberculosis. 13 Patterson was a lawyer who was highly committed to civil rights. 14 He had notably been involved in the famous Scottsboro Case in 1931 and was one of the leaders of the Communist Party of the United States of America and of The International Labor Defense (ild). For Essie, the trip to Moscow also provided her with an opportunity to see her brothers John and Frank who had chosen to settle in the ussr, where one of them was working as a bus driver for foreign residents and the other as a circus wrestler under the name Black Sampson. At the end of their trip, Robeson declared to Eisenstein: “Here I am not a Negro but a human being. Before I came I could hardly believe that such a thing could be… Here, for the first time in my life, I walk in full human dignity.” 15 Courted, invited and lionized, he would return four times in the following years. Like other artists and intellectuals, he was all the more inclined to become a communist sympathizer because a new, less sectarian era was dawning in the Komintern, in favor of a united left-wing stance against fascism. Essie and Paul were both so convinced by their experience in 1936 that they decided to send their son Paul Robeson Jr. to a school for the Soviet nomenklatura (Stalin’s daughter and one of Molotov’s sons went to the same school). They left their son in Moscow under the supervision of his maternal grandmother and went to fetch him before their return to the United States on the eve of the Second World War. Choos [????Y]YX?][?????Y]YYX?[?K??]\???H?\???[?\?X[]H[YK??\?Y??X?[??[Y\?X?[???[][?\?Z[][?????[\]^?\??[???[?Z\??[?[????Y]?????\??\?H?\?H????[X[?H??\??\???Y?? M????^[\K???[?Y\??[?[?????\?\????H?Y?Y?][?[??H?H??[??H[?H???X??Y\??Y]??Y?Z[???X?\?H]?H[YK? M??K?L??L? L??SB??