Sunday, January 13, 2013
Book: "The Black Russian" - The story of Frederick Bruce Thomas
After leaving the South and working as a waiter and valet in Chicago and Brooklyn, Frederick sought greater freedom in London, then crisscrossed Europe, and—in a highly unusual choice for a black American at the time—went to Russia in 1899. Because he found no color line there, Frederick made Moscow his home. He renamed himself Fyodor Fyodorovich Tomas, married twice, acquired a mistress, and took Russian citizenship.
Through his hard work, charm, and guile he became one of the city’s richest and most famous owners of variety theaters and restaurants. The Bolshevik Revolution ruined him, and he barely escaped with his life and family to Constantinople in 1919.
Starting from scratch, he made a second fortune by opening celebrated nightclubs that introduced jazz to Turkey. However, the long arm of American racism, the xenophobia of the new Turkish Republic, and Frederick’s own extravagance landed him in debtor’s prison. He died in Constantinople in 1928.
About the author
Several years ago, while preparing a course on Russian émigré culture between the wars, Yale professor Alexandrov ran across a reference to "the famous Russian Negro Fyodor Fyodorovich Tomas," said to have owned an entertainment establishment in Moscow called Maxim's. A black man with a Russian first name and patronymic? How did he get to Russia? And how did he end up, as he did, in Constantinople? Therein lies Alexandrov's fascinating tale, which is beginning to spark interest. (source: www.barnesandnoble.com.)
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