Friday, April 14, 2017

Paul Robeson: A Biography - Recommended Reading

Paul Robeson: A Biography by Martin Duberman
book review

Paul Robeson was simply the very best at whatever he did. He excelled in athletics and dramatic acting, and he had a world class singing voice.
I am totally amazed at this man’s abilities and his humanitarianism coupled with his crusade for world peace with freedom and justice for all.

By the end of WWII Paul Robeson was earnestly doing everything in his power to stomp out lynchings and segregation that was going from bad to worse. General Eisenhower eloquently proclaimed in a 1945 speech that blacks had been friends in need to the U.S. government along with the USSR in waging war against the Nazi Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan.

After WWII the U. S. implemented the Cold War to perpetuate its hold on world power and immediately things got worse for Robeson and the USSR. McCarthyism began under Truman and went wild with Eisenhower in the 1950s.

You will need to read this true and revealing book ...I will not spill the beans here and spoil your read. This book has a monumental message, and I strongly recommend it. 

Paul Robeson’s voice is all honey and persuasion;
His voice has all the power of Chaliapin’s and practically the same range, but there the likeness ends. Paul Robeson’s voice is all honey and persuasion, yearning and searching, and probing the heart of the listener in every tiniest phrase. A rich, generous, mellow, tender, booming voice that you think couldn’t say a bitter word or a biting sentence with a whole lifetime of practice. A voice like his is worth waiting ten years to hear, and an art like his comes once in a generation…

Robeson went on the radio to introduce songs of the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War, appeared at a rally in behalf of the China Defense League, helped to dedicate the Children’s Aid Society in Harlem, and, along with a host of other celebrities, appeared at a mass meeting sponsored by the Committee to Defend America by Keeping Out of War, to protest conscription and other preparedness measures. There he argued, yet again, that under their present leadership Britain and France were essentially engaged in a struggle to protect the profits of plutocrats, not the rights of the people.

As late as March 1941, Robeson told a reporter that he was against aid for Britain because he believed the mobilization was primarily aimed at saving the British Empire. According to the reporter, Robeson spoke “angrily” and “stormed” over the refusal of the British ruling class to do anything “about giving India and Ireland and Africa a taste of democracy.”

June 1941, the war would become, in Robeson’s eyes, an unimpeachable and united struggle against fascism…

On March 12, 1956, 101 Southern members of Congress issued a “Declaration of Constitutional Principles,” which called on their states to refuse implementation of the desegregation order. Defiance became the watchword in the white South, massive resistance the proof of regional loyalty. Every item in the white-supremacist bag of tricks—from “pupil-placement” laws to outright violence—was utilized to forestall integration of the schools.

The Ku Klux Klan donned its masks and hoods; the respectable middle class enrolled in White Citizens’ Councils; the press and pulpit resounded with calls to protect the safety of the white race. A tide of hatred and vigilantism swept over the South. Some blacks knuckled under in fear; many more dug in, prepared once again to endure—and this time overcome. On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks, a forty-two-year-old black seamstress, stubbornly refused to give up her bus seat to a white man—thereby launching the Montgomery bus boycott, energizing black resistance, catapulting Martin Luther King, Jr., and his strategy of nonviolent direct action to the forefront of the movement. An epoch of black insurgency had been ushered in.

1 comment:

Alinde said...

I sure do admire your choice of reading materials. Although I have 6 songs by Robison in my collection, I had no idea that he was such an icon of the civil rights movement. In fact, I since discovered that he was a cohort of Marian Anderson, another legendary figure.

Thanks for the info,