Paul Robeson: A Life of Activism and Art (Library of African American Biography)

Paul Robeson: A Life of Activism and Art (Library of African American Biography)

Lindsey R. Swindall

Language: English

Pages: 212

ISBN: 1442207949

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Paul Robeson: A Life of Activism and Art (Library of African American Biography)

Lindsey R. Swindall

Language: English

Pages: 212

ISBN: 1442207949

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Paul Robeson: A Life of Activism and Art is the biography of an African American icon and a demonstration of historian Lindsey R. Swindall's knack for thorough, detailed research and reflection. Paul Robeson was, at points in his life, an actor, singer, football player, political activist and writer, one of the most diversely talented members of the Harlem Renaissance. Swindall centers Robeson's story around the argument that while Robeson leaned toward Socialism, a Pan-African perspective is fundamental to understanding his life as an artist and political advocate. Many previous works on Robeson have focused primarily on his involvement with the US Communist Party, paying little attention to the broader African influences on his politics and art. With each chapter focused on a decade of his life, this book affords us a fresh look at his story, and the ways in which the struggles, successes and studies of his formative years came to shape him as an artist, activist and man later on. Robeson’s story is one not simply of politics and protest, but of a man’s lifelong evolution from an athlete to an entertainer to an indispensible man of letters and African American thought. Swindall neatly outlines the events of Robeson's life in a way that freshly presents him as a man whose work was influenced by more than just his circumstances, but by a spirit rooted in dedication to the African's place in American art and politics.

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hours at a post office branch, played a bit of football, and turned down an offer from a boxing promoter. In February, Robeson finished his degree and had to decide whether to pursue a clerkship and study for the New York state bar exam or to focus on building a career in the theater. After some consideration, and with no theatrical prospects on the immediate horizon, law won. Robeson was hired by a Rutgers alumus, Louis W. Stotesbury, who led a respected firm that specialized in estate law. The

After a concert in New York, the team went by rail to Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis. Then later they visited Chicago, Milwaukee, and Green Bay. The overall reception of this first tour was mixed. The house was packed in Indianapolis, and one reviewer from there waxed that Robeson had illuminated the sixteen selections he offered in all of their “true beauty” and “true force.” A critic in Pittsburgh was complimentary of the recital but refrained from judging Robeson’s voice,

vote with the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Yet by the 1880s, former slaveholding Southerners loyal to the Democratic Party were regaining political power in the South. Once in control, they virtually recreated the slave system by disfranchising African Americans, coercing them into sharecropping contracts, and enacting a rigid, discriminatory code of racial segregation in all facets of public life. These injustices were enforced through intimidation and violence such as lynching. In 1895

the preliminary United Nations meetings at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. International collaboration leading toward full democratic rights for colonized people, the Council pointed out, should be part of the U.S. government’s postwar vision. Robeson, when speaking independently or as chairman of the Council on African Affairs, insisted that freedom for colonized people must be an outcome of the war against fascism. In the autumn of 1944, while on tour with Othello, Robeson endorsed

roots in her people.” Invoking poet Langston Hughes, Paul observed, “Her soul had grown deep like rivers.” Interestingly, black Muslim leader Malcolm X was also at the event and expressed a desire to Paul Jr. to meet his father. Malcolm preferred a private meeting rather than talking at the funeral, and plans were to be made soon for two of the most provocative figures of the century to converse in person. Unfortunately, the meeting never took place since Malcolm was assassinated the next month

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