White and Black

US racism as presented to seventh-graders in Stalinist Russia

Copyright © 2000 by Hugo S. Cunningham
Except original Soviet text was not copyrighted

File added 990424
Last minor change 001127

The following story appears as an English-language reading lesson in
E. Belova and L. Todd,English: A Textbook of the English Language for the 7th Grade in 7-year and Secondary Schools (third edition)State Textbook and Pedagogical Publishers of the Ministry of Education of the RSFSR, Moscow, 1952; pp. 53-54.

Skip ahead to historical note


Part One

The mill-owners in the United States exploit the workers and especially the Negro workers. They teach the white people to hate the coloured workers.

"The white workers and the coloured workers must not unite against us. Let them hate each other," say the mill-owners.

Here is how they teach white and coloured people to hate each other.

Myrtle and Charlie, Billy and Sam were American children. They lived in the same town and their fathers worked at the same cotton-mill; but they did not know each other, for Myrtle and Charlie's father was black and Billy and Sam's was white.

One day when Billy and Sam were playing by the river, they met Myrtle and Charlie there. They watched the two black children for a short time and then all four began to play together. They had a very good time, and after that played together at the river every day. They found small pieces of wood, made boats and sailed them on the river. They became very good friends, but nobody knew about their friendship.

On Sundays Billy and Sam went to Sunday school. One Sunday Miss Houghton, the teacher, began to talk to the children about love.

"All men must love each other," she said. "All men are brothers. The mill-owners are the big brothers of the workers."

"Miss Houghton, are black and white people brothers too?" Billy asked suddenly.

"Of course not! That is ... Billy, why do you ask such a question?"

"Well," said Billy, "I don't know. I just ..."

Sam tried to explain. "You see, 'Charlie and Myrtle are coloured ..."

"Who are Charlie and Myrtle?" asked Miss Houghton.

"They live in Black Row. Their father and mother work at the mill. We play together at the river."

Miss Houghton was very angry. She said a lot about white people and the place of black people that Billy and Sam could not understand becasue they were too small.. But they understood quite well that Miss Houghton hated Negroes, and they knew that she was very angry with them because they played with Negro children.

(To be continued)

From Belova and Todd, pp. 58-59:


Part Two

After Sunday school Miss Houghton went to the boys' mother. She talked to her for a long time. Then their mother was angry with them too, and their father beat them.

For a long time Billy and Sam did not go to the river to play.

Myrtle and Charlie looked for their little friends every day. They were vey unhappy. Myrtle asked every day why Billy and Sam did not come.

"They may be ill," said Charlie. "Some children are ill now with typhus."

"They may be dead," said Myrtle.

"Let's go and ask," said Charlie. "I know where they live."

They went to the boys' home and knocked at the back door. The boys' mother opened it.

"Please, are Billy and Sam ill or dead?" they asked.

"No!" she shouted. "And if I catch you little niggers here again, I'll beat the life out of you! Don't you forget it!"

Charlie and Myrtle told the story to their father.

"There, there, my little ones," he said. "Don't cry about it. You have plenty of good friends in Black Row. It's best not to play with those white children.

"But why, Pappy?" asked Charlie.

"Almost all white people hate us because we're black."

"But why? Did we do anything to them?"

"Nothing, my children, nothing. They did us wrong. A long time ago they stole us and made us slaves. They sold us for money like cow and sheep. I think they are afraid of us and that's why they hate us."

So that is how Charlie and Myrtle, like Sam and Billy, had their first lesson in race hatred.

People of different races can live and work happily together in our country, because our country is a Socialist country.

Historical note

"Black and White" was an abortive Soviet film project about American racism, for which an amateur Black American cast was imported in 1932.

Written by Soviet and European Communists, the script was so wildly implausible (pretending that American race-prejudice would vanish beneath a wave of proletarian solidarity), that Black author Langston Hughes (one of the cast) refused to risk his reputation trying to rework it.

The project was abandoned, partly because of negative reviews of the script, partly because Soviet leaders suddenly saw the prospect of improved relations with the USA. Newly-elected US President Franklin D. Roosevelt would recognize the USSR in 1933. Soviet leaders did not want to rock the boat with an anti-American film at this time.

Source: Jack En-Hai, "Black and White and Red," an article in "American Heritage" magazine, May/June 1991, pp. 83-92.

A related topic:

Return to table of contents for 7th-Grade Soviet textbook.

Return to CSU charter page.