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    WELCOME TO THE BLACK RUSSIAN BLOG--DEDICATED TO TOPICS CONNECTED WITH, AND CIRCLING AROUND, MY BIOGRAPHY OF FREDERICK BRUCE THOMAS, THE SON OF MISSISSIPPI SLAVES WHO BECAME A MILLIONAIRE IMPRESARIO IN PRE-REVOLUTIONARY MOSCOW AND 'THE SULTAN OF JAZZ' IN CONSTANTINOPLE To subscribe to this blog's RSS feed, please click on the icon above

    Entries in racism (3)

    Frederick's Application is Sabotaged by the American Consulate General

    When Frederick tried to apply for a new passport at the American Consulate General in Constantinople, his long residence abroad immediately emerged as a major problem because it raised suspicions that he had expatriated himself (although Frederick must have blessed his foresight in concealing what he had actually done in 1915, as I describe in my book).  There was little that Frederick could say to Allen, the consul in charge, to mitigate this, but he tried.

     

    Entrance to American Consulate General in Constantinople c. 1919, when Frederick Thomas went there to try to get a new passport (Carpenter Collection, Library of Congress)

     

    Frederick explained that he had intended to return to the United States in 1905 when he accompanied a Russian nobleman as an interpreter on a trip to San Francisco, which, however, had to be aborted in Manila in the Philippines because of the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War.  Whether or not Frederick took such a trip is uncertain, although he did mention it to other Americans later and provided some plausible-sounding details. In any event, such a trip would hardly have satisfied Allen’s misgivings about Frederick’s decades-long residence abroad and consequent automatic expatriation.

    For his part, Allen responded to Frederick’s duplicity with a carelessness that was negligent or worse.  This ranged from not bothering to correct the typo “Frederirick,” which was the first item that appeared on the passport application, to not filling out several important sections in accordance with instructions found on the forms themselves, including those about the applicant’s family, his identity as an American, and the Consul’s evaluation of the application.

    These omissions would have been sufficient to invalidate the application in the eyes of the State Department, had it been sent.  But Allen did not even bother to forward what he had to Washington and let the documents languish in the Consulate General for the next fourteen months.  The most likely conclusion is that Allen sabotaged the application simply by setting it aside, and that he did so because of his distaste for Frederick specifically or for black people in general.  This is in fact suggested by some slighting comments he made to the State Department the following year when he finally did submit paperwork on Frederick’s behalf.

    (To be continued)

     

    Revelations continue about racist mistreatment of black soldiers in WW II

    The New York Times had yet another article yesterday, July 23, about the hideous racism to which black troops were subjected during the Second World War--this time while building the crucial highway from the lower 48 to Alaska.  This was a very rushed effort because of US fears of a Japanese invasion of Alaska following Pearl Harbor (which of course was paralleled by the wartime internment of Japanese Americans).

    A Thought About Independence Day and Black People During the American Revolution

    The New York Times ran an article on its front page yesterday about the Daughters of the American Revolution, a patriotic organization that used to be notoriously racist, but that now accepts African-American women as members.  The article mentions that some 5,000 blacks fought on the colonists’ side during the Revolution, out of 400,000 whites.  Not all blacks did so willingly, although some did; and not all those who fought to win their freedom from slavery actually received it.  Nevertheless, today’s descendants of these men are justifiably proud of their ancestors.  But the article does not mention that far more black people chose the British side during the Revolution.  Why would they have done so?  Simon Schama in his Rough Crossings:  Britain, the Slaves, and the American Revolution (2006) describes how tens of thousands of black people voted “with their feet for Britain and King George” during the Revolution because the last royal governor of Virginia had announced that any slave owned by a rebellious colonist who escaped and served the king would be freed.  Tens of thousands did so, fleeing to Nova Scotia, and unleashing one of the great exoduses in American history.  However, in the end, many were betrayed by the British and had to flee farther, to Sierra Leone on the coast of West Africa.