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Wednesday, July 12, 2017
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Patukott

African Americans in the Spanish Civil War

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On the article about African Americans in the Spanish Civil war - I am from Estonia, and the article reminded me of an old gentleman I used to know (he passed away in 2000) and who had been in the Spanish Civil War as a volunteer on the Republican side. He told me about an African American member of the Lincoln Brigade whom he had met there - a student of Slavic languages speaking excellent Russian (an African American university student back in the 30's !!! I wonder if it would be possible to find out more about him ?) As my informant recalled, this guy had been quite an imposing figure - very dark, tall and with a deep "paulrobesonish" voice.

As for Estonians fighting in Spain, my elderly friend didn't know exactly how many there were altogether, but back when we got acquainted he told me that there were two more men still alive who had been fighting for the Republic - but as far as I could gather, whatever the reason but they were not exactly keen to keep in touch.

 

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By my guess, a university-educated black skinned American didn't get his education in the USA, anytime before the 1970's. France maybe, at the Sorbonne, or the USSR (The International Lenin School, perhaps?) France was remarkably welcoming to Americans "of colour" at that time, and displayed a remarkable degree of "colourblindness". France has traditional strong links with Russia (The Czarist monarchy traditionally spoke French rather than Russian!) and many Russian royalist sympathisers fled to France during the Civil War. It has been suggested that the word "Bistro" - for a small inexpensive French restaurant - derives from demands delivered by impoverished Russian ex-pats demanding faster service: "Bistro!" meaning "Faster" (or "Hurry up!") Plenty of Russian Ashkenazic Jews fled to London in the first decades of the 20th century and the last decades of the 19th, so lots of Slavic langauge speakers, but not a huge amount of teaching of Russian...

 

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Thank you for your comment ! Yes, of course you are right - it was in all probability a flawed conclusion from my part that this man got his education in the States. And yes, of course there have been strong ties between France and Russia, and lots of émigrés after the revolution. One recalls at once the politician Pierre Beregovoy, and the writers Nathalie Sarraute and Elsa Triolet, for example.

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Ron, you are guessing wrong on an African American getting a formal education in the US before 1970.  There were many excellent black colleges before then.  Also, there were many colleges that were "integrated".  I know you heard about the Tuskegee Airmen.  The officers were college educated.  Also, there were the military colleges that produce the likes of General Colin Powell.

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