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2/10/10

Robert Robinson:An African-American's 44 Years In Soviet Russia


Hired in 1927 as a floor sweeper by Ford Motor Company, he became a toolmaker there. In April 1930, through Amtorg, a Soviet trade agency based in New York, a Russian delegation toured the plant. A Russian asked if he would like to work in the Soviet Union. At Ford he earned $140 a month--good wages--but was offered $250 a month, free living quarters, maid service, 30 days vacation a year and a car. All of this for a one year contract. At 23 and recently from Cuba, where he grew up, he was ready for some adventure. Like most things Soviet, the promises were eventually to mark a tragic life, his.

So in the mid-1930s Robinson went, and thereon hangs his tale. He describes various discrimination against blacks while the Soviet government painted itself as an ethnically tolerant utopia.

During the 1930s Moscow purges, he never undressed until 4 AM, nervously awaiting a Secret Police knock at his door. Next day, he and others would silently take note of fellow employees who did not show up for work. He was aware of the foreigners who disappeared from the First State Ball Bearing Factory. When he started there, he found 362 foreigners. By 1939 only he and a Hungarian were left. Because he was a foreigner, friends begged him not to visit them. More

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