“In this magnetically appealing, unforgettable biography, Alexandrov . . . [with] assiduous research . . . insightfully and dynamically portrays a singular man.” Booklist (starred review)
The Black Russian
978-0-8021-2229-2 • $17.00 • Paperback • Mar. 2014
“A moving and vivid portrait of a remarkable American life.” San Francisco Chronicle“With so much focus on the black experience in America in the nineteenth century, we might never consider the black experience in Europe at the same time. Vladimir Alexandrov’s The Black Russian rectifies this oversight, and does so with panache.” The Daily Beast
The Black Russian is the incredible story of Frederick Bruce Thomas, born in 1872 to former slaves who became prosperous farmers in Mississippi. A rich white planter’s attempt to steal their land forced them to flee to Memphis, where Frederick’s father was brutally murdered. He then left the South forever, worked as a waiter in Chicago and Brooklyn, sought greater freedom in London, crisscrossed Europe, andin a highly unusual choice for a black American at the timesettled in Moscow, a city virtually color-blind to race. He renamed himself Fyodor Fyodorovich Tomas and, through his charm and guile, became the city’s richest and most famous owner of variety theaters and the renowned restaurant Maxim. With the outbreak of the Bolshevik Revolution, he barely escaped with his family from Odessa to Constantinople in 1919. He made a second fortune by opening celebrated nightclubs where he introduced American jazz. However, the xenophobia of the new Turkish Republic, the long arm of American racismand Frederick’s extravagancelanded him in debtor’s prison. He died in Constantinople in 1928.
“[A] prodigiously descriptive, fluently analytical, and altogether astonishing work of resurrection.” Booklist (starred review)