Paul Robeson: A Life of Activism and Art (Library of African American Biography)
Lindsey R. Swindall
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.
interpretation probably approached the authors’ conception of the character more closely than “the play of their own composition.” While the reviews of Robeson’s performance were mainly complimentary, the play itself received mixed notices and ran for only a few weeks. In the play, Fredi Washington, an attractive, light-skinned African American actress, played Black Boy’s white girlfriend. The rumor mill buzzed that Washington and Robeson had an affair during the run of the play. Indeed they had,
arriving, he was impressed by the lack of race prejudice and felt for the first time in his life that he was truly accepted as a full human being by the people of the Soviet Union. This was a profound discovery and, because of it, he felt connected to those people until his death. Robeson’s study of black music, such as spirituals, reinforced his conviction that African American songs were “in the tradition of the world’s great folk music.” The music of working people and people who had suffered
attempted to overthrow the Republican government. Robeson pointed out that victory for Franco would mean that the “poor, landless and disfranchised” would remain “poor, landless and disfranchised.” None of the Western powers (England, France, the United States) rallied to support the antifascist cause in Spain. Robeson was grieved at the West’s lack of concern but was heartened by the Soviet Union’s call for a “united front” against fascism. Volunteers from around the world were mobilized under
games and sports, such as billiards, chess, football, and basketball, analytically and to enjoy learning and playing simultaneously. The small Connecticut community was always pleased when Robeson turned up for events at the local high school where Paul Jr. attended. Ultimately, Paul did spend time in Enfield but often stayed with friends in the city. The country home became more of a space for Eslanda to cultivate an independent life by working on her own studies and her writing and speaking
advocacy for peace. Not surprisingly, Robeson was not granted a passport to travel to the Soviet Union to receive the award. A ceremony was held instead in Harlem at the Hotel Theresa the following year. W. E. B. Du Bois, himself an active proponent of peace, praised Robeson’s efforts on behalf of peace, and writer Howard Fast presented the prize. Robeson considered the award to be “a great honor” and accepted it in the name of the peace movement in the United States. The award came with a cash