Tuesday, February 19, 2008
We must join...
In a recent comment on this blog, Sometimes Saintly Nick mentioned Paul Robeson and his concert at the Peace Arch on the U.S.-Canadian Border in 1952. Nick said that our government had revoked Robeson's passport and wouldn't allow him out of the country, so Robeson sang at the border - where an audience of 40,000 people gathered. I didn't know anything about Paul Robeson, but my ears perked up at this story.
Now I've been reading about this incredible man and listening to recordings of his voice. He was a tall man, and his voice sounds like it came from every cell of his body. Deep, rich, full, alive. He was the first to bring spirituals to the concert stage.
Here's a little taste of what he was like:
Robeson's father was a slave. His mother came from an abolitionist Quaker family. Paul (April 9, 1898 - January 23, 1976) was only the third black man to attend Rutgers. He was a singer, actor, athlete, civil rights activist, and Stalin Peace Prize laureate. I read that he could sing and converse in twenty languages. In 1950, his passport was revoked because our government didn't want him talking to people abroad about the racist conditions in our country.
Robeson worked tirelessly to not only educate the world about Africa but also to help free that continent from colonialist exploitation. He also spent a lot of time in Russia. He had a deep love and respect for Joseph Stalin. He admitted to being a socialist and was accused of being communist. In the 1950's, all of his wonderful recordings and films were taken out of circulation. His movies were never seen on American television until after his death.
Maybe you already know all about Paul Robeson. Maybe I'm the last to know. Reading about all that he did against great odds inspires me to consider going beyond my perceived limits.