April 3rd - Talk with Vladimir Alexandrov *79

Join us for a reading and conversation with Vladimir Alexandrov *79, author The Black Russian, his new biography of an African-American who led a remarkable life in Russia and Turkey. (Synopsis after the jump.)

To accompany the talk, appetizers from Lina's Place: Authentic foods will be provied--smoked fish, Baltic herring, sausage, dill pickles, prepared foods such as salads and other things...e.g., pirozhki (meat and other substance-filled pasties); pirogi (meat or cabbage pies); kholodets (meat in aspic); herring "in a fur coat" (i. e., with potato and beet salad) yes, we couldn't miss the opportunity of serving "black Russians"- (vodka and Kahlua).

Time: 5:30pm
Date: Wednesday, April 3rd
Place: 100 Edgehill Road, New Haven (map here; street parking available)
RSVP: Gilles Carter '80 (gillescarter@yahoo.com or 917-612-4334)


Frederick Bruce Thomas was born in 1872 to former slaves who became prosperous farmers in Mississippi. However, a rich white planter’s attempt to steal their land forced them to flee to Memphis, where Frederick’s father was brutally murdered. 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. 

Although widely known during his lifetime, Frederick is now virtually forgotten. The Black Russian—which was six years in the making—is the result of Vladimir’s research in archives and libraries throughout the United States, as well as in Russia, France, England, and Turkey. 

For more information about Vladimir and the book, please visit www.valexandrov.com