Paul Robeson

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Paul Robeson
Paul Leroy Robeson
BirthplacePrinceton, New Jersey, U.S.
Singer (spirituals, international folk, musicals, classical), actor, social activist, lawyer, athlete

Robeson, Paul

(rōb`sən), 1898–1976, American actor and bass singer, b. Princeton, N.J. The son of a runaway slave who became a minister, Robeson graduated first from Rutgers (1919), where he was an All-American football player, and then from Columbia Univ. law school (1923). He began his acting career in 1924 with the Provincetown PlayersProvincetown Players,
American theatrical company that first introduced the plays of Eugene O'Neill. The company opened with his Bound East for Cardiff at the Wharf Theatre, Provincetown, on Cape Cod in 1916 and later worked in New York City in conjunction with the
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. With a resonant voice and the ability to project a humane spirit, he won wide acclaim with his creation of the title role in Eugene O'Neill's Emperor Jones (1925; film, 1933). Other outstanding dramatic performances include Crown in DuBose Heyward's Porgy (1928) and Othello (in London, 1930, and New York, 1943–45). In 1925 he made his debut as a concert singer. Possessed of a magnificent bass voice, he became known especially for his rendition of "Ol' Man River" in Jerome Kern's musical Show Boat (1928; film, 1936) and for his interpretations of spirituals. He lived mainly in Europe from 1928 to 1939, traveling to the Soviet Union for the first time in 1934. Robeson's association with Communist causes and his winning of the International Stalin Peace Prize (1952) made him a controversial figure in the United States. He moved to England in 1958, and continued to appear in concerts in Europe and the Soviet Union. He returned to live in the United States in 1963.


See his Here I Stand (1958); biographies by his wife (1930) and son (2001) and by M. B. Duberman (1988); study by J. Goodman (2013).

Robeson, Paul


Born Apr. 9, 1898, in Princeton, USA; died Jan. 23, 1976, in Philadelphia. American basso, dramatic actor, and social figure.

Born into a poor Negro family, Robeson received a law degree from Columbia University in New York. He performed as a dramatic actor in American and British theaters. His best role was that of Othello, which he performed in 1930 at the Savoy Theatre in London. In 1925, Robeson debuted as a singer with a performance of Negro folk songs. He became internationally known after his concert tour through Europe from 1926 to 1928. In 1936 and 1937, Robeson performed for antifascist fighters in Spain. During World War II he made passionate pleas to his audiences to join the struggle against fascism. He toured a great deal until the 1960’s, including the USSR, which he had visited for the first time in 1934.

Robeson possessed a soft and deep bass with a beautiful timbre and a wide range. He sang in 20 languages, and his repertoire included Negro and American folk songs, songs by Spanish and German antifascists, including songs from the repertoire of E. Busch, and folk songs from the USSR. In 1933 he made his first film. Robeson was a member of the World Peace Council and, from 1958, an honorary professor of the Moscow Conservatory. He received the International Peace Prize in 1950 and the International Lenin Prize For Strengthening Peace Among Nations in 1952.


In Russian translation:
Na tom ia stoiu. Moscow, 1958.
“Mysli artista.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1958, no. 11.


Gorokhov, V. Pol’ Robson. Moscow, 1952.
Afinogenov, A. Dnevniki i zapisnye knizhki. Moscow, 1960. Pages 203, 528.
Kudrov, K. “Pevets bor’by, pevets svobody.” Sovetskaia kul’tura, Apr. 6, 1973.
Robeson, E. G. Paul Robeson, Negro. New York, 1930.
Seton, M. Paul Robeson. London, 1958.


Robeson, Paul (Bustill)

(1898–1976) stage actor, singer, political activist; born in Princeton, N.J. At Rutgers University, he was a 4-letter man, a 2-year All-American in football, valedictorian, and a Phi Beta Kappa at a time when few African-Americans even attended college. He took a law degree at Columbia University, but turned to singing and acting, appearing in plays throughout the world, in movies, on concert stages, and on recordings. He was especially known for his renditions of black spirituals, while his most famous stage role was in Othello. By the late 1930s, he had become increasingly more active and outspoken on behalf of racial justice, social progress, and international peace; when he defied charges that he was a Communist, the government canceled his passport. He spent most of the next 13 years living in Russia and London, returning to the U.S.A. (1963) to live out his last years in poor health.
References in periodicals archive ?
In 1957 Paul Robeson was invited to a miners' eisteddfod in Wales but his left wing sympathies led to the American government depriving him of his passport.
Workers gathered in Porthcawl to hear Paul Robeson sing from New York.
On February 19, 2001, the Columbia Daily Spectator, in an article to accompany the Paul Robeson Annual Lecture, said this about Paul Robeson:
The extraordinary achievements and impressive nobility of Paul Robeson (1898 1976) made an indelible imprint on the history of the twentieth century, and his unshakable belief in the oneness of humankind inspired people all over the world.
If he were alive today, Paul Robeson would commit his persuasive speaking and singing in the cause of peace and oppose George W.
Tayo Aluko performs as US star Paul Robeson, a target of the McCarthy witch-hunts of the 1950s.
The school, named after US activist Paul Robeson, is in the notorious Chicago suburb of Engelwood.
Paul Robeson said that black actors shouldn't set their limits at playing Othello, but should be aiming to play Hamlet and Lear.
American singer Paul Robeson was shadowed by MI5 on a visit to Tyneside, secret documents reveal.
He's one of the great bass-baritones and next week, he'll be paying tribute to another great - the black singer/actor and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson.
His novels have been translated into more than thirty languages and have garnered numerous prizes, including the Nonino International Prize; the Paul Robeson Award for Artistic Excellence, Political Conscience, and Integrity (1992); the Distinguished Africanist Award by the New York African Studies Association (1996); and the Zora Neale Hurston--Paul Robeson Award for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement.
Then comes a careful investigation into the career of illustrious midcentury African-American singer Paul Robeson.