I had read long ago about a Black Jamaican who was a member of the Moscow Soviet back in the 1930s. I assumed that he was in the same catagory as Claude McKay and others who had gone to Russia for idealogical reasons. Last year I was able to follow up Robert N Robinson's story, online, and then by reading his remarkable autobiography Black on Red. His story is a very different one - he had no particular Communist leanings - he just wanted a better job and better pay than a Black worker could get in the USA in the Depression years of the 1930s.
As a result of this very natural ambition he found himself
trapped in the USSR for over 40 years, surviving Stalinist purges, World War II and the attentions of the various incarnations of the Soviet secret police. If ever a book made clear the oppressive nature of the Soviet regime, this one does. It was a major triumph of the human spirit that Robert Robinson emerged at the end of his Russian exile a whole and sane person. It is clear that his religious faith was an important factor in that survival.
I'm not sure how great a claim Jamaica really has to this remarkable man. He was born here, but his mother was from Dominica. She and his Jamaican father migrated to Cuba, and when Robert was about 6 ½ years old, his father deserted him and his mother. So it was his Dominican mother, Octavia, who gave him his sound upbringing, in spite of her own dire circumstances which led her to the brink of suicide. There was an innate soundness of character backing up that early training.
Robinson twice attempted to get back to Jamaica. In the 1950s the problem was that the Norman Manley government was having its own problems with Leftist rebels and had no interest in allowing back a returning resident from Russia, whose political intentions were an unknown quantity. In the 1970s the problem was presumably the reverse. The Michael Manley government had moved well to the left, and must have been very sceptical about the views of the Soviets which might be expressed by someone who had 'escaped' from a 40+ year virtual 'imprisonment' in the Soviet state. That story still needs to be unravelled.
There is also a great irony in the fact that the agent of Robinson's release from Russia, was Idi Amin!