History

The Discordant Life of Paul Robeson

I’m one of a dwindling band who can say, “I heard Paul Robeson sing.” These days most people under sixty would respond, “Paul who?” To answer that question briefly, Robeson (1898–1976) was the son of a former slave. He took up the cause of Negro liberation (like most of his race in the US at the time, he referred to himself as a Negro) from the 1930s, while achieving greatness in sport, acting, and especially singing folk and protest songs in his magnificent bass. He was also a militant Stalinist. I was twenty when Robeson ended his 1960 tour of…

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