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DuSable Teacher's Report On Soviet Union
By Margaret Burroughs

During the month of August I was fortunate enough to head a delegation of eight Negro Americans who were invited to visit the Soviet Union for a 21-day, 7,000 mile tour of the Soviet Union. Our host was the Institute of  Soviet-American Relations, headquartered in Moscow, and the purpose of the trip was to promote friendship, understanding and peace between our two countries.

Within the group were five artists which included Sylvester Britton, and myself of Chicago; Mrs. Geraldine McCullough of Maywood, III.; Gary Rickson of Boston; and Mrs. Ruth Waddy of Los Angeles. Also in the group were Dudley Randall, poet and librarian of Detroit, Charles Burroughs linguist, curator of the Museum of Negro History, historian (and my husband); - and Wesley South, editor of the Chicago Courier. Accompanying us was my 13-years old son Paul who was not an official delegate.

We all met in Paris and after a few days in the French capital we were off to Moscow. Our reception was extremely cordial and every effort was made to make us comfortable and to afford us an opportunity to see as much as we could during our three-week visit.

I must emphasize here that while at times out discussions touched on politics, that ours was NOT a political delegation but a cultural one. I am sure that if the Soviets had wished to invite a group to debate Viet-Nam and such questions that they would not have invited us, but some persons who were specialists in the field of International politics and economics. That we certainly were not.

Our itinerary included Moscow; Leningard; Baku, capital of the Rupublic  of Azerbaijan; Kuba, a state farm; Alma Ata, capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan and then back to Moscow.

We visited museums, art galleries, national monuments and educational institutions. Our many across-the-table discussions were mainly concerned with, how the artists and writers in the Soviet Union, live, work how much they are paid for their work, restrictions, if any, on their freedom of expression and similar questions.

We were not invited over there for the purposes of determining whether the Socialist system would suit the American Negro. That is something that only the American people as a whole, Negro and white, would have to consider and the fact that we here live under a capitalistic system indicates that this is what the American people want.

Let me say here, that there is the tendency, which is really incorrect but which happens never-the-less, to constantly compare progress of the Soviet Union with the progress of the United States. I unconsciously do it myself. One just cannot equate across the board what is going on in one country or the other, due to the fact that they are governed by two entirely different economic systems. Our country's system is capitalistic and the Soviet Union's system is Socialistic.

One should have a knowledge of the basic differences between these two diametrically opposed systems before drawing conclusions as to which government of the Soviet Union is only fifty years old and that the government of the United States is two or three times that many years in the making and development.

Thus, when we compare economic or industrial development of the two countries, credit must be given to the Soviets, considering the fact that countries like the United States or the Western Countries have had more than a headstart.

I have many observations about what i saw and experienced in the U.S.S.R. and it would make a book if I were to tell them all. But not affording that luxury I will try and capsule them into a few terse statements for the instant edification of the readers.

1. For me, it was an exciting experience to experience, even for a short time, how it feels to circulate in a country which was free from racism, prejudice, and discrimination! I forgot completely about my color.

2. I was amazed to learn that over 160 difference nationalities of people live together in equality and harmony, integrated, you might say.

3. I observed that the Soviets are people, just like Americans and that they want to live in peace, to get alone in the world, to raise and educate their kids and to have some security in their old age.

4. I feel that there is much to be learned from observing the way of life in other counties, not only the socialist ones. Much of what we see can be applied to helping to solve some of the problems of our country.

5. Rather than being concerned about the quality of the toilet paper used in the Soviet Union, I was most imporessed with the great art, and the achievements in science and construction that I saw.

6. I felt perfectly accepted in the Soviet Union and I felt no fear about being turned away from any hotel or being refused service in any store or restaurant.

7. I noted people walking sitting in the parks, fishing in the lakes and steams and enjoying themselves in the amusement parks just as they do here.

8. The Soviet people seemed robust and healthy and well fed. They certainly didn't look as if they needed CARE package.

9. The Soviet subways are the cleanest and the most beautiful that I have ever seen including those in the USA Paris and London.

10. Much money must be spent on culture and education or the people. There are numerous museums, both art, historical and scientific and they are filled with people, old and young at all times.

11. There is an honor system of paying fares on streetcars and busses. The driver drives the bus. The people drop their fares into the box and make their own change among themselves. It really seems to work.

12. Busses, trams, subway trains and public buildings are not defaced or scrawled upon. The people there seem to take pride in maintaining their public facilities in cleanliness and beauty. The streets are clean and littering is frowned upon.

13. Reading seems to be very popular here. Popele are often seen reading in transit. They form long lines to buy books which are very inexpensive. They read serious and classic books not comics.

14. Popular culture, theatre, ballet, concerts and the circus are very reasonable in price with the cheapest tickers being 30 cents and the dress circle about $3.

15. Law and order seems to reign there. Policemen or militia men as they are called, are not as much in evidence are they are here. We seldome saw squad cars or motorcycles racing around.

16. Even though Russians are famous for their Vodka, I saw very few, if any drunken people on the street. I saw nothing that would approach teen gangs or gang bangers. The young people seemed to be quite under control.

17. The people seemed to be very friendly and pressed themselves for peace friendship. They were against war and fiercely against Fascism. They still felt strongly against Hitler Nazism. They were definited against the United States being in Viet Nam and felt they should get out and let the Vietnamese determine their own destiny.

These are only a few of my impressions There are, however, some questions or topics which I am curious about which, unfortunately, time did not permit me to explore. perhaps another trip will permit me to find out these answers.

My twenty questions are these:

1. How are problems of juvenile delinquency handled there? Is the rate higher or lower than ours?

2. What about the educational system? Do they have slow learners or school drop outs? What is being done about this?

3. Is the crime rate higher or lower than ours? Why?

4. How do they develope civic pride in their people so that they keep the streets so clean?

5. What provisions are made for people in their old age?

6. Do they have medicare?

7. How do they provide for their children's college education?

8. Is there a job waiting for those who finish college?

9. Is there any unemployment?

10. Since there are over 160 different nationalities in that country, how do they manage to get along together?

11. Do the different nationalities live in segregated areas?

12. Is there any poverty problems there? what is being done about it?

13. Is there a housing shortage? What is being done about it?

14. How do their labor unions work?

15. Do they have a mental health problem and what is being done about it?

16. Do they have problems of juvenile delinquency?

17. How do they cope with school vandalism and violence?

18. Are the streets safe at night?

19. Do they people on ADC?

20. What advances have they made in finding a cure to cancer or heart disease?

These are my twenty questions which are yet unanswered. Perhaps when Mr. South sends his questions from his "Hot Line" listeners over there, he will include mine and publish the answers in the paper or report them over the radio.

In this way we can learn a lot from other people and other countries which can be useful to us. There is, on the other hand, a lot that we can teach to other people especially with out expert American "up and at them" efficiency, and advanced technocracy.

Oh yes, the next point of emphasis in our cultural exchange project is to plan a visit for next summer to the continent of Africa, our ancestral homeland. It is my hope to take a delegation of Chicago's top Negro teenagers, to visit several African Countries for the purpose of meeting African teenagers. This group of about 15 will be drawn from among young people who have given the highest number of volunteer hours at the Museum of Negro History. Interested?

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