Paul Robeson was the first black performer who attained an international
reputation stating with his 1925 performance in Eugene O'Neill's play
EMPEROR JONES. He was a multi-talented man: football player, attorney, actor,
singer. All of this at a time in the United States when segregation of the
races was at its highest level (including even the slavery and post-Civil War
era). There was one problem from the viewpoint of many people: He was an
unabashed supporter of the Russian Revolution.
During the McCarthyite witch-hunt red-baiting period following World War Two,
Robeson could get few bookings in the United States, but many opportunities
overseas. One difficulty: The State Department suspended his passport on the
grounds that he might speak out against United States foreign policy.
He became a hero to many blacks but died in relative obscurity in 1976 at the
age of 78. There were no great parades nor outpourings one-way-or-the-other.
One would have to stretch things to parallel his experiences with those of
Marlene Dietrich. Robeson maintained a continuing relationship with his
homeland, that's perhaps why he was such a thorn.
Cal Pryluck <PRYLUCK@TEMPLEVM>
Dept of Radio-Television-Film <[log in to unmask]>
Philadelphia, PA 19122