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Paul Robeson

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Paul LeRoy Bustill Robeson (Princeton (New Jersey)april 9, 1898 - Philadelphia (Pennsylvania)23 January 1976) was a black American actor, athlete, singer, writer, and political activist.


[hide]*1 birth, family

Birth, family[Edit]Edit

Robeson was born in Princeton in New Jersey and went to high school in New Jersey, where he excelled in singing, acting and athletics. His mother, Maria Louisa Bustill (1853-1904) came by accident when a burning coal from the stove fired her dress. Paul was then six years. He was further raised by his father William Drew Robeson I (1845-1918), an escaped slave who later became a preacher. His father the importance of him deep penetrated by learn to improve themselves. Paul had several siblings: William Drew Robeson, a doctor who practiced in Washington, d.c.; Benjamin Reeve Robeson, Reverend; and Marian Robeson who lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Paul took out cum laude his final exams in high school in 1915. He won a scholarship to Rutgers University where he excelled both academically and athletically area. He was only the third black American who on Rutgers should study. He had wanted to the Princeton University but there was never a black American admitted. Paul was one of three classmates at Rutgers who might be a member of Phi Beta Kappa, an exclusive Student Association. He was the best of his year, played football for the u.s. national team, and distinguished himself repeatedly on sports. He moved to Harlem and received his degree in law from theUniversity of Columbia. After graduating in 1923, he became the first black that came with one of the most prominent New York law firms went to work, Stotesbury and Miner. There he went away after a Secretary typing letters dictated by him refused because of his skin color. Robeson also studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, where he learned about the history of Africa, which he said made him aware of the power and wealth of his heritage as black.

Marriage and children[Edit]Edit

He married in August 1921 with Essie Cardozo Goode (1896-1965). She was the head of the pathological laboratory in a hospital in the city of New York. They had a child: Paul Robeson II (1927-).

Singer and actor[Edit]Edit

Robeson became famous as an actor and as a singer; He had a beautiful, very deep bass voice. In addition to his roles on the scene were also his renditions of negrospirituals famous. His first roles were in 1922 as Simon in Simon the Cyrenian at the YMCA in Harlem and Jim in Taboo in the Sam Harris Theater in Harlem. Taboo was later renamed to Vodoo. Also, the title role in Eugene O'Neills oeropvoering of The Emperor Jones garnered much praise. He also played Crown in Porgy and Bess and he played Othello in 1930 in England, when no American company wanted to adopt him in that role. He has played that role well afterwards in New York in 1943-1945. At that time the series performances on Broadway by Othello on Broadway was the longest ever played by any piece of Shakespeare. Robesons repertoire of American black folk music carried out at these much wider to make known to the general public both in and outside of the USA; especially his world-famous interpretation of "Go down, Moses".


[1]Paul Robeson as painted by Betsy Graves Reyneau, in the collection of the National Archives and Records Administration

Between 1925 and 1942 Robeson appeared in eleven films, fifth of English-made, after he and his wife moved to England in the late 1920s. He lived there until the outbreak of the Second World War, punctuated by long tours in which he performed as a singer. In the period up to its popularity was in the thirties of the last century was Robesons name a guarantee of full houses in films such as Song of Freedom and The Proud Valley. He filmed his stage success In the us with The Emperor Jones in 1933. He also played the role of Joe in the film adaptation of Showboat in 1936. The famous song Ol' Man River was hurry business card and is widely regarded as the best rendition ever still. In the film King Solomon's Mines (1937) he played Umbopa. Eventually, he was blacklisted by the Hollywood bosses for his political ideas and the way he who was very.

Criticism of the u.s.[Edit]Edit

During his travels and tours in Western Europe and the Soviet Union expressed Robeson is highly critical of the conditions in which black Americans had to life, especially in the southern States. He was active in the fight against lynching. In 1946 he exerted strong pressure on president Harry s. Truman, with comments that implied the possibility of armed self defense of black Americans was named as the Government that would not do, and in that year also laid the foundations of the American Crusade Against Lynching. This public stance, together with also pronounce in public sympathies for the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin in General and in particular, its membership in the American Communist Party and his regular trips to the Soviet Union led to the FBI under j. Edgar Hoover opened a file on him. Robeson was followed by the FBI between 1941 and 1974, when the FBI decided that ' continuation of the research was no longer needed '.

He still sang occasionally overseas, including a performance at the Welsh National Eisteddfod by phone (!). In 1940, Robeson had played in the film "The Proud Valley ' in which he played a black worker who in a village in Wales captured the hearts of the local population; and also in the really stayed there afterwards a certain band between Wales and Robeson. His political ideas not in Wales fell out of tune. He is also to this day have not forgotten in Wales and once said that ' South Wales ' was his favorite place on Earth. In 1949 he garnered in Moscow during a tour in the Soviet Union after ' the anthem of the people ' to have sung over a quarter continued a round of applause that yet.

However, In 1949, Robeson performed on near Peekskill , New York. After a benefit concert for the civil rights were departing concert goers attacked by supporters of anti communist and racist groups, while police watched without intervening. There were about 140 wounded. The local newspaper was accused to have sparked the riots, which is now known as the ' Peekskill riots '.


Robeson was also examined by the Committee on UN-American activities of the American Parliament, that tried to sue him because of refusal to sign a non-communist statement. This, the Government refused to provide him a Passport so he could travel abroad no longer. On May 18, 1952, during an American tour was a concert held at the Peace Arch on the border between Washington State and British Columbia (Canada). This was an act of protest against the Government that forbade him to go across the border. Robeson was on the US side of the border on the back of a flat truck and sang for an audience of 20,000 a 40,000 people who were on the Canadian side.


In december 1952 Paul Robeson received the International Stalin Prize for strengthening peace among peoples , that made him even more controversial in the United States.

At hearings for the Commission on American operations invoked Robeson himself repeatedly fifth constitutional amendment (someone need not answer questions if the answer might charge him for the right) If you have any questions about membership of political parties and he held speeches against the Committee members about civil rights for black Americans. At one point he said: "you are the non-vaderlandslievenden, and the non-Americans, and you had to be ashamed of yourself." It was only in 1958 Robeson got his passport back after a decision of the Supreme Court that the right of an American citizen to travel abroad without trial could not be restricted.

Before that, Robeson wrote a book, ' Here I stand ' (here I stand, also a quote by Martin Luther) calling for organized action against the unfairness of the Jim Crow laws (laws and regulations that provided in other racial segregation and unequal treatment of blacks and whites). After he recovered his passport, he moved back to England. He spent the next five years by with to travel throughout the world and to act.

He became ill and spent a time in hospitals in Russia and Eastern Germany.

Some critics of Robeson stated that its status as a ' victim of the McCarthy witch hunt ' is unwarranted because he indeed had extensive connections with the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of the USA, which was known that there was active by spied in the us.

Robeson met in the Soviet Union, at his request, the poet Itzik Feffer, a Jewish poet who was arrested and later was murdered on the orders of Stalin, under controlled conditions by the authorities. Although he could see that Feffer was tortured and knew that this could speak with him he has not free then and later heard no criticism of the Soviet Union.

He later told his son that he indeed had known and made him promise not to tell this until after his death, because he had publicly vowed never to say ugly things about the Soviet Union.

Robeson also wrote in april 1953 a reminder of Joseph Stalin after his death, titled ' to you, beloved comrade '.

In 1961 by his wrists with a razor blade cut Robeson in a hotel room in Moscow. His son, Paul Robeson Jr., claims that this was the result of hallucinogenic drugs provided by a CIA agent would be done in his drink during a party that was given to him by the State. Many others think Robesons disappointment over the Soviet Union a more likely explanation is.

Robeson returned in 1963 back to the us to live there. Throughout the rest of his life he was tormented by health problems and depression, and he performed only rarely on. they 75th anniversary was celebrated on an evening at Carnegie Hall, where he himself was not present however; only a recorded message from him was played back.

Death and funeral[Edit]Edit

Paul Robeson died in 1976 in Philadelphia where he lived with his sister. He is buried in the Ferncliff cemetery in New York. His obituary appeared on the front page of The New York Times on January 24, 1976.


Robeson was, as appears from the above, on unlikely many areas very gifted, and he used that gift to work also by rock hard. The tragedy of his life is that he always, but especially in his childhood and young adult years, face racism and prejudice because of his skin color. This drove him into the arms of the Communist movement and made him a showpiece of Communist regimes overseas, where at least his skin color was no problem, what for him was so important that he did not wish to see other shortcomings of these regimes. Although Robeson, one of the major forerunners of the black civil rights movement has been, is his memory by the McCarthy-time almost out of memory the current younger generation Americans erased. In 1998, he received a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In Europe and he is best known as a singer Netherlands still remained. His voice was a bass-baritone with a very low timbre.

He could deal with more than 20 languages, and was at one point important enough to to be called for the Office of Vice-President in the presidential candidacy of Henry Wallace in 1948.

In 2004 appeared in the us a stamp of Robeson in the series ' black heritage ' (Black Heritage). The East German post office have him pictured on a postage stamp in 1983.


  • Paul Robeson-Here I Stand. DVD. Director: St. Claire Bourne. Winstar Home Entertainment. DVD Release Date: August 24, 1999. duration: 117 minutes.
  • Duberman, Martin. Paul Robeson: A Biography. 804 pp. New Press; Reissue edition (May 1, 1995). ISBN 1-56584- -288 X.
  • Foner, Philip s. Paul Robeson Speaks: Writings, Speeches, and Interviews, a Centennial Celebration. Citadel Press; Reprint edition (September 1, 1982). 644 p. ISBN 0-8065-0815-9.
  • Robeson, Paul. Here I Stand. Beacon Press (January 1, 1998). 160 pp. ISBN 0-8070-6445-9.
  • Whitman, Alden. Paul Robeson Dead at 77New York Times. P. 57, column 2. January 24, 1976.

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