A Look Back at Remarkable Musician and Activist Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson was one of the most interesting figures in the United States in the 20th century: an actor, a longtime singer, and even a star college athlete at Rutgers (where he was the third African-American ever to enroll). He also became a dedicated activist through his active participation in the social and intellectual life of the Harlem Renaissance. How could a figure like him not be more well-known? A potential hint may be in the title of the above video honoring him: “CPUSA Celebrates the Life of Paul Robeson.” After World War II, Robeson came under public fire for his alleged membership in the Communist Party. Though it’s unclear if he ever actually joined, he certainly shared ideological sympathies. In the video, his singing is juxtaposed with statements he made against racism and in defense of people joining the Communist Party, explaining that anyone should be able to join if one so wished.
For those interested, numerous film and written biographies have been produced on Robeson. Barbara Ransby also released a book last year, Eslanda, about the similarly fascinating life of Eslanda Robeson, Paul’s longtime partner who (as often happens to activist women) hasn’t received as much historical attention as the men she was close to.