Paul Robeson sound recording C0097
Published by George Mason University Libraries
Paul Robeson was a famous African-American singer, actor, athlete, and civil rights advocate. Robeson made a name for himself in the 1930s performing Black spirituals, which he merged with various folk and national styles to champion the labor and social movements of his time. He sang for peace and justice in 25 languages throughout the U.S., Europe, the Soviet Union, and Africa. The quintessential cosmopolitan, Robeson became known as a citizen of the world, mingling effortlessly with the people of Moscow, Nairobi, and Harlem. Among his friends were future African leader Jomo Kenyatta, India's Nehru, historian Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, anarchist Emma Goldman, and writers James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway.
In the late 1940s, when dissent was scarcely tolerated in the U.S., Robeson openly questioned why African Americans should fight in the army of a government that tolerated racism. Because of his outspokenness, he was accused by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) of being a Communist. The accusation nearly ended his career. Eighty of his concerts were canceled, and in 1949 two interracial outdoor concerts in Peekskill, N.Y. were attacked by racist mobs while state police stood idly by.
In 1950 the U.S. revoked Robeson's passport, leading to an eight-year battle to resecure it and to travel again. During those years, Robeson studied Chinese, met with Albert Einstein to discuss the prospects for world peace, published his autobiography, Here I Stand, and sang at Carnegie Hall. Two major labor-related events took place during this time. In 1955 Robeson was invited by the Forum for Free Speech to speak and perform at Swarthmore College. It was at this event that the tapes featured in this collection were recorded. Paul Robeson retired from public life in 1963 and died on January 23, 1976, at age 77, in Philadelphia.
This collection contains reel-to-reel tapes, cassette tapes, and compact discs of Paul Robeson's 1955 concert performance at Swarthmore and his 1955 speech, "America to Me, Waterboy."
Organized by subject.
Collection is open to research.
There are no restrictions.
Special Collections Research Center also holds other performance sound recordings.
Robeson, Paul, 1898-1976.
Paul Robeson sound recording collection, Collection #C0097, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.
Collection donated by John Lofland in 1998.
Processed by Special Collections Research Center staff. EAD markup completed by Eron Ackerman and Jordan Patty in August 2009.