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Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976)

Born in America prior to WW1, Robeson was the son of a minister. His Mother died when he was 6, so he grew up without her influence, But he was academically very gifted. he graduated from high school with a history of being a football star, and won a scholarship to college.

While at college, he managed to increase his status in american football to all-American standing, and graduated validictorian, which was unheard of in 1917.

From there, he want on to law school, where he again graduated highly marked. While he was there he also met the woman who was to become his wife. He was also introduced to acting.

His acting caused him to be noticed for his singing ability, which again increased his public profile.

He had reason to travel to England and act in london, where he got rave reviews for his singing of the song "Old Man River" in the stage show "Showboat". This was later to become his signature tune after his performance in the 1936 movie of the same show.

He continued to get a higher and higher public profile, and traveled all over the world singing, and making movies.

After making a film about the problems of the injustice to the welsh miners, they took him to heart.

All the while he was touring, he was actively promoting civil rights, fighting injustice, and promoting peaceful coexistance between nations, which he continued to do until his ill health stoped him touring.

He encountered facism while visiting Germany in the 1930's, and socialism while visiting Russia at around the same time. He viewed the socialist model, which allowed peacefull coexistance and cultural diversity as the best way to fight facism.

He was so influential that when the U.S. governemt needed someone to help with the war effort and get people to buy war bonds, they chose him. He was happy to do this, but was later to be dissappointed when the wartime promises of improved conditions for minorities were not implimented.

He was direct inspriration for the early civil rights movement, inspiring such people as Dr Martin Luther King Jr. After the disappointment about lack of civil rights reform, he, along with others like Albert Einstein, helped to inspire a massive anti-lynching rally. He was on the commitee sent by this rally to talk with the president Lynden B Johnson, who refused to act over this issue due to the problems it would cause him with the southern senators in congress. This caused him to point out that if the government would not act to do anything to stop this, the people would have to do so in self defence. this was not well received, and marks the start of his troubles with the american government.

Because of his open support of the benefits of some aspects of the Russian system of government during the intensification of the cold war, and his continued visits to help promote peacefull coexistance, he fell foul of the McCarthy witch-hunts, resulting in the loss of his passport, and an inability to get work in large parts of america. It also left him with an ongoing legacy of clinical depression.

Eventually, the supreme court gave him back his passport, and he resumed travelling promoting civil rights and peace, but he was still fighting the depression. In addition to this, with the take-off of the civil rights movement, the new black american organisations had to conciously try and keep their noses clean, and thus made an active effort to distance themselves from him.

Because of this, a whole generation of african americans grew up with almost no knowledge of him, and he was almost deleted from the history books, but people who either knew him directly, or knew of him because of their parents talking about him have led to his rediscovery as a major and very early civil right leader.

After almost a decade of being a recluse, he finally died in 1976, with almost no money, and living in just one room in his sisters house.

He was in the following movies:

  1. Big Fella (1938)
  2. Body and Soul (1924)
  3. Il Canto dei Grandi Fiumi (1955)
  4. Jericho (1938)
  5. King Solomon's Mines (1938)
  6. Native Land (1942)
  7. Sanders of the River (1935)
  8. Showboat (1936)
  9. Song of Freedom (1936)
  10. Tales of Manhatten (1942)
  11. The Emperor Jones (1933)
  12. The Proud Valley (1939)

You can also see what other stuff about this person is available from amazon In America

last modified 18:47 2006/03/18