The Red and the Black: The Russian Revolution and the Black Atlantic

header_logoCALL FOR PAPERS: Conference to be held at the Institute for Black Atlantic Research (IBAR), University of Central Lancashire, Preston, 14-15 October 2017, to mark the centenary of the Russian Revolution

Keynote speaker: Professor Winston James, University of California, Irvine.

With special performances from Linton Kwesi Johnson (invited) and David Rovics

Claude McKay addressing the Fourth Congress of the Comintern, Moscow in 1922.
Claude McKay addressing the Fourth Congress of the Comintern, Moscow in 1922.

Every Negro who lays claim to leadership should make a study of Bolshevism and explain its meaning to the coloured masses. It is the greatest and most scientific idea afloat in the world today…’
Claude McKay, 1919.

The Russian Revolution was not only one of the most critical events of the twentieth century in its own right but an inspirational event across the ‘black Atlantic’ as a blow against racism and imperialism.  For colonial subjects of European empires internationally as well as black Americans, the Russian Revolution promised the hope of a world without oppression and exploitation.   This conference aims to build on the growing scholarship and literature in this area  (for example, African American Anti-Colonial Thought, 1917-1937 edited by Cathy Bergin; Blacks, Reds and Russians: Sojourners in Search of the Soviet Promise by Joy Gleason Carew; Framing a Radical African Atlantic: African American Agency, West African Intellectuals and the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers by Holger Weiss;Pan-Africanism and Communism: The Communist International, Africa and the Diaspora, 1919-1939 by Hakim Adi) to explore the impact the revolutionary events in Russia during 1917 made across the African diaspora and the subsequent critical intellectual influence of Marxism and Bolshevism on the current of revolutionary ‘black internationalism’ in its aftermath.  We are also interested in exploring how the leaders of the Russian Revolution viewed Africans and people of African descent – the so-called ‘Negro Question’ in Communist discourse.

Submission guidelines:

We are interested in thinking about the relationship between the Russian Revolution and the ‘black Atlantic’, so proposals of papers particularly relating to thinking through how the Russian Revolution fits with the category of the black Atlantic – and Atlantic history and Atlantic studies more broadly – would be particularly welcome.  We would welcome proposals of papers around the following suggested themes, or anything else that was suitable:

  • ‘Race’ and the Russian Revolution
  • ‘The Black Bolsheviks’ – Russians of African descent during the revolution
  • ‘The Negro Question’ – Marxism, Bolshevism and Black Internationalism
  • The African Blood Brotherhood, Claude McKay and the Communist International
  • The ‘Red Atlantic’ – Colonial seafarers and Communism
  • The impact of the Russian Revolution in colonial Africa
  • The impact of the Russian Revolution on the colonial Caribbean
  • The impact of the Russian Revolution on Black America (including Marcus Garvey and Garveyism)
  • The impact of the Russian Revolution on black colonial subjects in Europe
  • Pan-Africanism and Communism
  • Intersections of black Communists with Asian radicals such as M N Roy
  • The gendered politics of Bolshevism and black internationalism
  • Intellectual Consequences – how did the Russian Revolution challenge traditional understandings of history and theories of social change more broadly among black intellectuals?
  • The legacy of Cedric J. Robinson and reflections on ‘Black Marxism’ and ‘the black radical tradition’.
  • Reactions to the Russian Revolution and its legacies in Black Atlantic Visual Arts and Literature and Performance – e.g. Langston Hughes, Claude McKay and Paul Robeson

Please send proposals for papers of no more than 250 words by 31 Jan 2017 to any or all of the organisers of this conference –

Alan Rice – /

David Featherstone /

Christian Høgsbjerg /

Olga Tabachnikova

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