The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #77626 Message #1386574
Posted By: Pauline L
23-Jan-05 - 07:57 PM
Thread Name: Stories about Paul Robeson
Subject: RE: BS: Stories about Paul Robeson
I liked what I read on the www.cr.nps.gov website about Paul Robeson and I'd like to add some more.
Paul Robeson was the first African American to be admitted to [some august institution] of college football players. Among his adversaries were his own white teammates, who stampeded and nearly pulverized him. He recovered from severe injuries and came back fighting.
The Dean of Admissions just had to see him in the flesh because he couldn't believe that any n**** could be so smart. He decided that some great intellectual slave owner must have been one of Robeson's ancestors.
He was graduated from law school and went to work for a law firm, where he was only allowed to do research for cases that other attorneys would argue. His firm didn't want to lose cases because of his color. When a white female secretary refused to take dictation from him because he was black, he quit the job.
He broke another barrier by demonstrating that a Negro (the respectful term at the time) could be a serious actor. He is especially well known for his role in Shakespeare's Othello. I have a recording of him delivering his last speech before committing suicide in the play. He was awesome.
Robeson was among the first African Americans to play in many movies. This part of his career is controversial among more recent African American activists because he generally played the role of a simple, intellectually unsophisticated, trusting, almost child-like person, a racial stereotype of that era.
He was harrassed violently and cruelly by the FBI. So devoted were his followers, that some of them would lie down on top of him on the floor of a car to protect him from bullets from the FBI, KKK, and others.
One night, while he was performing live in a theatre to which African Americans were not admitted, he thought better of it, walked out, and never played in segregated theatres again.
When he was not allowed to give a performance in the U.S., he held a concert at the US-Canadian border. He stood on the Canadian side and sang to a large audience on the American side.
He was a fan of Russian Communism and moved to the USSR for a while towards the end of his life. He also suffered what appear to have been several nervous breakdowns around the same time.
The leaders of the Civil Rights movement in the 50s and 60s did not want his help.
He married as a young man but lived apart from his wife, who was African American, most of their lives. He was a star who had many groupies, and, after a certain age, all of his lovers were white women. His wife took care of him in his old age.
I consider myself fortunate that both my parents were big fans of Paul Robeson, and I grew up listening to his recordings, some of which I still have, and also to inspired and respectful stories about him. So many people of my generation know him only for "Old Man River," if at all. That's why I've written this long post about him. He was a great man and a courageous pioneer in many ways, and I want him to be remembered as such.