Paul Robeson

~ Person


Paul Leroy Robeson (/ˈrbsən/; April 9, 1898 – January 23, 1976) was an American bass singer and actor who became involved with the Civil Rights Movement. At Rutgers College, he was an outstanding American football player, and then had an international career in singing, with a distinctive, powerful, deep bass voice, as well as acting in theater and movies. He became politically involved in response to the Spanish Civil War, fascism, and social injustices. His advocacy of anti-imperialism, affiliation with communism, and criticism of the United States government caused him to be blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Ill health forced him into retirement from his career.

Robeson won an academic scholarship to Rutgers College, where he was twice named a consensus All-American and was the class valedictorian. He was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He received his LL.B. from Columbia Law School, while playing in the National Football League (NFL). At Columbia, he sang and acted in off-campus productions; and, after graduating, he became a participant in the Harlem Renaissance with performances in The Emperor Jones and All God's Chillun Got Wings. Robeson initiated his international artistic résumé with a theatrical role in Great Britain, settling in London for the next several years with his wife Essie.

Robeson next appeared as Othello at the Savoy Theatre before becoming an international cinema star through roles in Show Boat and Sanders of the River. He became increasingly attuned towards the sufferings of other cultures and peoples. Acting against advice, which warned of his economic ruin if he became politically active, he set aside his theatrical career to advocate the cause of the Republican forces of the Spanish Civil War. He then became active in the Council on African Affairs (CAA).

During World War II, he supported America's war efforts and won accolades for his portrayal of Othello on Broadway. However, his history of supporting pro-Soviet policies brought scrutiny from the FBI. After the war ended, the CAA was placed on the Attorney General's List of Subversive Organizations and Robeson was investigated during the age of McCarthyism. Due to his decision not to recant his public advocacy of pro-Soviet policies, he was denied a passport by the U.S. State Department, and his income, consequently, plummeted. He moved to Harlem and published a periodical critical of United States policies. His right to travel was eventually restored by the 1958 United States Supreme Court decision, Kent v. Dulles, but his health broke down. He retired and he lived out the remaining years of his life privately in Philadelphia.

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Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1966 Das andere Amerika Paul Robeson & Earl Robinson 1
1992 The Odyssey of Paul Robeson Paul Robeson 1
2008 The Very Best of Paul Robeson Paul Robeson 1
Paul Robeson Paul Robeson 2
Songs of Struggle (& more) Paul Robeson 1
The Voice of the Mississippi Paul Robeson 1

Album + Compilation

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1990 Paul Robeson Sings "Ol' Man River" & Other Favorites Paul Robeson 1
1999 Ol' Man River Paul Robeson 1
1999 Legends of the 20th Century: Paul Robeson Paul Robeson 1
2000 The Legendary Paul Robeson: Ol’ Man River Paul Robeson 1
2006 Ol' Man River Paul Robeson 1
A Man and His Beliefs Paul Robeson 1
Ballad for Americans Paul Robeson 1
Golden Classics Volumn Tow Paul Robeson 1
Green Pastures Paul Robeson 1
Ol' Man River Paul Robeson 1
Songs for Free Men Paul Robeson 1
Spirituals, Folksongs, and Hymns Paul Robeson 1
The Best of Paul Robeson Paul Robeson 1
The Collector's Paul Robeson Paul Robeson 1
The Essential Paul Robeson Paul Robeson 1
The Great Paul Robeson Paul Robeson 1
The Power and the Glory Paul Robeson 1
Voice of the People (Best of) Paul Robeson 1

Album + Live

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1987 Live at Carnegie Hall Paul Robeson 1
1997 The Legendary Moscow Concert Paul Robeson 3
1997 Songs of Free Men Paul Robeson 1
1998 The Peace Arch Concerts Paul Robeson 1

Single + Soundtrack

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
My Way / Deep Desert Paul Robeson 1
Ol’ Man River Paul Robeson 1
The Killing Song / Congo Lullaby Paul Robeson 1

Other + Spokenword

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
2008 Words Like Freedom Paul Robeson 1

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