Historians of the Russian empire have used Soviet citizen’s diaries to gain insights into “Stalinist subjectivity,” that is, the ways that individuals actively incorporated the Bolshevik ideal into their very sense of themselves. But diaries and other intimate sources have barely been tapped as a means of exploring ways in which the Soviet system likewise brought meaning to the lives of Americans and other foreigners. American women’s diaries and letters reveal both their genuine excitement—about Soviet schools, theatre, public spectacles, nurseries, workers’ housing, laws supporting maternal and child health, the “new morality,” and the simple fact of women’s visibility in public life.
The relationships that Langston Hughes developed with Afro-Cubans exemplify the personal and artistic connections that helped shape the political strategies of both Afro-Cubans and black Americans as they attempted to overcome a shared history of oppression and enslavement. These encounters illustrate the significance of cross-national linkages to the ways black populations in both countries negotiated the entangled processes of U.S. imperialism and racial discrimination.