Philip Jordan and the October Revolution

In 1917, writes Jamie H. Cockfield, the American Ambassador’s valet reported on revolutionary events in Russia through letters to the family at home.

When President Wilson appointed David Francis of Missouri as United States Ambassador to the Russian Empire in 1916, the new diplomat took with him to St Petersburg his faithful valet, Philip Jordan. Born the son of an emancipated slave in 1868, Jordan had entered the service of the Francis family in 1889 when David Francis was the Democratic Governor of Missouri. Except for a period of service under Francis’ successor, Governor William J. Stone, Jordan remained in the employment of the Francis family until his death in 1941.

Jordan was only one of two blacks known to have been an eye-witness observer of the Russian Revolution of 1917 (the American embassy also employed a black Trinidadian cook), but his letters from the Russian capital at the time are the only account of events written by a member of his race. Moreover, they are the only record of events written by a westerner of working-class origin.1

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