Happy Birthday Paul Robeson! (April 9, 1898 – January 23, 1976)

By S. Stasov

Paul Robeson was the son of a slave who escaped bondage to become a Presbyterian minister. Abundantly talented in multiple areas, the handsome Robeson was intellectually and academically brilliant, musically gifted, and a superb athlete. At age 17 he attended Rutgers University on scholarship, earning varsity letters in four sports. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa, he graduated as class valedictorian. Robeson attended Columbia Law School, but faced racial strife as a lawyer.

He turned to theater, where his acting and vocal gifts found welcoming appreciation. His groundbreaking Othello, his beautifully sung recitals, and remarkable linguistic gifts (he could speak between 15 and 20 languages) brought him to the international stage in the 1930s. He became an outspoken opponent of fascism and bigotry at home and abroad. Robeson was drawn to communism, and confronted no racism in his trips to the USSR. Senator Joseph McCarthy labeled Robeson a danger to American democracy, launching a successful campaign of persecution and silencing that culminated in the revocation of Robeson’s passport.

A superbly gifted artist, culture warrior, and civil rights advocate, Robeson was done in by his own controversial radical politics, ultimately withdrawing into seclusion during the last years of his life.

Songs My Mother Taught Me (Dvorak)

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 1943 sung by Paul Robeson in Yiddish in Moscow 1949

Soviet USSR Anthem in English sung by Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson on Othello: first black American to play role

Robeson: No More Auction Block

Robeson: Ode to Joy

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