Paul Robeson

Stephen Fender writes:

There are two stories to tell about Paul Robeson – one sad and the other tragic. Both could be constructed from the ample data in this heavy, ill-focused, yet informative concatenation of computerised database, research grant and exclusive access to the subject’s papers. In the first a young Negro of high intelligence, great physical strength and grace, musically talented and gifted with a resonant bass voice, is induced by a dominant white culture to fill various roles – social, professional and indeed dramatic – formulated for blacks to perform. As long as he kept his place, he was rewarded with riches and fame, even public adoration. When he began to break out of his racial stereotype – and further, to challenge the political assumptions on which that culture was founded – he was abused, spied on, hauled before accusatory tribunals, virtually denied a livelihood, for a while even confined to his native country.

(LRB 7 December 1989)

Other Titles of Interest