The introduction sets out a framework for understanding the formation of revolutionary lives at the intersection of trajectories and linkages related to the Red and Black Atlantic. The chapter positions the volume within the important tradition of work which adopts a politicised understanding of Black Atlantic worlds, drawing out the relevance of these approaches for life writing. We contend that such a biographical approach can bring a vivid and distinctive lens to bear on how racialised social and political worlds were negotiated and experienced and to engagements with left political movements and organising. The introduction sets out a sense of how diverse political lives were shaped both in relation to Russia but also in ways which traversed various maritime spaces associated with the African diaspora. In doing so it outlines a dynamic framework for articulating some aspects of the racialised, gendered and classed articulations of revolutionary political lives in the wake of the Russian Revolution. Some of the arguments of the chapter are demonstrated through a discussion of the political trajectories of Hugh Mulzac. Born in 1886 on Union Island, near Saint Vincent in the Grenadines, Mulzac became a founder of the National Maritime Union and during the Second World War, after decades of struggle by organisations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, became the first African-American merchant marine naval officer to command a mixed integrated crew on the SS Booker T. Washington.
This volume explores the life histories of a wide range of radical figures whose political activity in relation to the black liberation struggle was catalysed or profoundly shaped by the global impact and legacy of the Russian Revolution of October 1917. The volume includes new perspectives on the intellectual trajectories of well-known figures such as C.L.R. James, Paul Robeson, Raya Dunayevskaya and Walter Rodney, as well as the important South African trade union leader Clements Kadalie and the poet Amiri Baraka. The volume also brings together new research and scholarship on a number of critical activists who were influenced by ‘black Bolshevism’ such as Henry Hubert Harrison, Wilfred Domingo, Cyril Briggs, Grace P. Campbell and Lamine Senghor. Detailed engagements with the political trajectories of such revolutionary figures opens up a set of diverse perspectives and engagements with different articulations of black internationalisms in the wake of the Russian Revolution. This enables a focus on the different and contested terms on which these relations were shaped, and some of the nuanced situated ways in which these relations were negotiated and lived. The engagement with particular lives and experiences offers a focus on different forms of political agency and solidarity shaped at the intersection of the Russian Revolution and the wider Black Atlantic world. Such a biographical approach brings a vivid and distinctive lens to bear on how racialised social and political worlds were negotiated and experienced, and also on historic black radical engagements with left political movements and organising.