Paul Robeson

Paul LeRoy Robeson [ ɹoʊ̯bsn̩ ] ( born April 9, 1898 in Princeton, New Jersey; † January 23, 1976 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ) was an American actor, singer, athlete, author and civil rights activist.


Paul Robeson was the great-great grandson of the baker of George Washington and the fifth and last child of Maria Louisa and William Drew Robeson Bustill, a former slave. His father was a young man of Slavery in North Carolina, in Martin County, escape to the North. Robeson visited in the autumn of 1915 to 1919 Rutgers University, where he played football, baseball and basketball, track operation and was also academically successful.

1921 and 1922 Robeson was a professional football player. He first played for the Akron Pros in the " American Professional Football Association " ( predecessor of the NFL), then with the Milwaukee Badgers in the NFL. Overall, Robeson came to 15 inserts.

In 1923 Paul Robeson from his study of law at Columbia University Law School. He came in the next year in the play All God's Chillun Got Wings by Eugene O'Neill and then got a leading role in the play Emperor Jones. The role of Othello was Robeson's important on Broadway. In 1924 he appeared in a silent film, Oscar Micheauxs Body and Soul. As a courtesy, he participated with his wife Eslanda and the poet HD 1930 in Kenneth MacPherson's artistic film Borderline, then he turned, starting with Emperor Jones (1933 ) a number of commercial films. From the context of his role as the narrator falls in Joris Ivens film The Song of the currents ( DEFA, the GDR 1953/54 ). His bass voice came in 1932 in his first appearance in a Broadway musical, Show Boat, for Einsatz.Durch the role of Joe and the hit song " Ol ' Man River " in the film adaptation of the musical 1936er Universal Pictures, he became known to a wider audience. Robeson was one of the leading stage and film actor of his time.

He lived from 1927 to 1939 in London, where he was under the influence of George Bernard Shaw and leading British politicians of the Labour Party ( Stafford Cripps, Clement Attlee ) and the Communists ( Harry Pollitt ) a convinced socialist. He read Marx and Engels, Lenin and Stalin in the original and was introduced by the Russian ambassador in London in striking interpretations. Robeson joined any Communist Party. 1934 visited the couple Robeson, the Soviet Union, they were regarded to as communists and Stalin sympathizers. Two brothers of his wife Eslanda Goode, John Goode and Frank, living in the Soviet Union. And Robeson felt the Soviet Union as a liberation and a truly human society. He confessed: Here, for the first time, I walk in human dignity, because unlike in the U.S. racist embossed dark skinned people were considered second-class citizens and not social inequality, but social equality was the goal of government policy. 1936/37, he sang for the International Brigades in Spain. In 1939, the cantata Ballad for Americans by John La Touche (text) and Earl Robinson ( music) was listed in the CBS radio station with Paul Robeson in the lead role. The Kenyan freedom fighter and later President Jomo Kenyatta, who lived at the time in London, played in 1940 as a casual job in Sanders of the River with Paul Robeson. Robeson became the chief mentor of the young Harry Belafonte, who became one of the most popular black entertainment stars in the early 1950s, but also an important protagonists of the African-American civil rights movement. Belafonte appealed both artistically and politically on Robeson.

In the McCarthy era, his passport was revoked, his records disappeared from the shops, his name came to blacklisting, which amounted to a performance ban in the U.S.. During this time, formed international committee, demanded the freedom to travel for Robeson. Particularly strong this movement was in the UK. So organized, among others, members of the British House of Commons in London in May 1957, a concert over the phone to London St Pancras Hall. Another of these " transnational concerts " over the phone was organized by the Welsh miners in the autumn of the same year. Only in 1958 he was allowed to leave the country again. He then played in England back to Othello and 1960 had also made ​​an appearance in the GDR.


  • Robeson was awarded the International Stalin Peace Prize in 1952 and 1955, the World Peace Prize.
  • Since 1956 he was a corresponding member of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin ( East), Department of Performing Arts.
  • On 5 October 1960, the Faculty of the Humboldt University of Berlin awarded him an honorary doctorate.
  • In Leipzig, an elementary and middle school bears the name " Paul Robeson ".
  • In Berlin -Prenzlauer Berg Stolpische the road was in 1978 renamed " Paul Robeson -Straße".

In 1979, a documentary about him, entitled Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist. The language spoken by Sidney Poitier film won the 1980 Oscar for Best Short Documentary.

The Manic Street Preachers Let Robeson Sing dedicated to him with a song. The band also coverte Did not My Lord Deliver Daniel? - A spiritual song (Gospel ), which was also interpreted by Robeson. Eric Bibb, Robeson's godson, and his father, Leon Bibb dedicated to him the plate Praising Peace - A Tribute to Paul Robeson.

The New York band The World / Inferno Friendship Society honored him on their plate Speak of Brave Men EP and the album Red- eyed soul with the song Paul Robeson.

At Paul Robeson Today a musical play by the British writer and singer Tayo Aluko, the one-man play Call Mr. Robeson lists his worldwide since 2006, in which he plays Robeson himself, who describes and reflects on his life.

EL Doctorow describes in the book of Daniel the concert with Paul Robeson in Peekskill, New York State, after which it came to the Peekskill riots and visitors were massively abused and physically threatened.

In the Soviet Union, a tomato variety was named after him: " Pol Robson " ( dark precocious rod tomato fruits are medium sized, olive - brown, juicy, sweet - tart medium late, prolific, growing indefinitely. . ).

Publications (selection)

  • Negro - Spirituals (7 ")
  • The Incomparable Voice Of Paul Robeson on His Master's Voice
  • Paul Robeson
  • The Glorious Voice Of Paul Robeson