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was born in the Bronx, New York, to Lloyd Patterson, Sr., and Margaret Patterson. He attended Spaulding Middle School in the Bronx, Westfield High School, in Westfield, New Jersey, and graduated from the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia, in 1931.

After graduating from Hampton, Patterson tried getting interior design and painting jobs in the local area, but had little success. Not long after graduation, Patterson accompanied the writer Langston Hughes and twenty one other African‐Americans—including Wayland Rudd, Homer Smith, Louise Thompson and Sylvia Garner to Moscow U S S R to make a film titled Black and White Sponsored by the Soviet government the film was intended to be a truthful representation of race relations in America The Soviets were eager to capitalize on having Americans portray the racial injustices in their own country however their surprising ignorance of racial relations in the United ...