Symposium Explores Experiences of African Americans in Soviet Union

patterson_large The community is invited to a FREE symposium organized by The Fralin Museum of Art and the UVa Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures on that will examine the diverse experiences of African Americans in the Soviet Union under Stalin, with a focus on African American intellectuals and artists.

“In the Shadow of Stalin: African American Artists and Intellectuals in Soviet Russia” will examine the diverse experiences of African Americans who both visited and immigrated to the Soviet Union during the first half of the twentieth century.

The symposium accompanies The Fralin’s exhibition, “In the Shadow of Stalin: The Patterson Family in Painting and Film,” which explores the 1932 trip made by Langston Hughes and several of his African American peers, including the theater designer and Hampton University student Lloyd Walton Patterson, to the Soviet Union to make a film, “Black and White,” about racism in the United States. The film was never made, yet the journey profoundly affected many who took the trip.

Some, such as Patterson, stayed in the USSR, marrying the artist Vera Aralova, with whom he had three children, including James Lloydovich Patterson, who was celebrated for his role in director Grigorii Aleksandrov’s popular 1936 film “Circus” and later achieved recognition for his poetry. Others, such as Hughes, used this opportunity to travel throughout the Soviet Union, an experience he documented in “I Wonder as I Wander: An Autobiographical Journey.”

The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Allison Blakely, Director of the African American Studies Program, Professor of European and Comparative History, and George and Joyce Wein Professor of African American Studies at Boston University. Blakey was recently interviewed by The Washington Post for an article that begins with a description of a portrait in the exhibit.

The symposium will be held on Saturday, October 26 at the University of Virginia in Campbell Hall, room 153. Opening remarks will commence at 10:00am and the event will conclude at 5:30pm. Registration is required. Please email Katelyn Hobbs or 434-924-6322 to register.

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