Thursday, April 09, 2020

Paul Leroy Robeson (April 9, 1898 – January 23, 1976)

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Robeson Leroy Robeson was an American bass baritone concert artist and stage and film actor who became famous both for his cultural accomplishments and for his political activism. Educated at Rutgers College and Columbia University, he was also a star athlete in his youth. He also studied Swahili and linguistics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London in 1934. His political activities began with his involvement with unemployed workers and anti-imperialist students whom he met in Britain and continued with support for the Loyalist cause in the Spanish Civil War and his opposition to fascism. In the United States he also became active in the civil rights movement and other social justice campaigns. His sympathies for the Soviet Union and for communism, and his criticism of the United States government and its foreign policies, caused him to be blacklisted during the McCarthy era.”*

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  • Duberman, Martin Bauml. Paul Robeson (Alfred A. Knopf, 1988).
  • Goodman, Paul. Paul Robeson: A Watched Man (Verso, 2013).
  • Horne, Gerald. Paul Robeson: The Artist as Revolutionary (Pluto Press, 2016).
  • Robeson, Paul (Philip S. Foner, ed.) Paul Robeson Speaks: Writings, Speeches, and Interviews, 1918-1974 (Citadel Press/Carol Publishing Group, 2002, first publ. in 1978).
  • Sparrow, Jeff. No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson (Scribe, 2018).
Robeson singing

* In the words of Paul Buhle, “For Robeson and his admirers—including younger generation figures such as Harry Belafonte, Ossie Davis, and Ruby Dee, who all took part in Freedomways magazine and honored Robeson in banquets during his last years—the Communist Party’s Popular Front had presented an interracial and global coalition whose loss left a vacuum. Long after the Soviet governments that made Robeson a symbol of anti-imperialism had collapsed, longer still since the glory days of the New Deal and the War Against Fascism, the sense of defeat, the grimness of the twentieth-century disappointment remains….”

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