In June 1932, Langston Hughes and twenty-one other African Americans traveled to Moscow to make a movie. Set in the contemporary U.S. South, Black and White was to have exposed Jim Crow to the world, but soon after Hughes and his companions arrived the project was cancelled — due, officially, to technical difficulties and script defects. This essay revolves around a puzzle: Hughes's much-cited account of these defects (from his 1956 autobiography) is almost a complete distortion. I provide the first in-depth discussion of the original Russian-language script to argue that Black and White would have been a fascinating film, advancing a cross-racial International committed both to left revolutionary politics and modernist experimentation. I then explain Hughes's dubious account by arguing that it enabled him to distance himself from the Soviet-oriented left on his own terms, preserving the USSR as a beacon of hope.
Steven S. Lee; Langston Hughes's “Moscow Movie”: Reclaiming a Lost Minority Avant-Garde. Comparative Literature 1 June 2015; 67 (2): 185–206. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-2890967
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