This slim, workmanlike account of Paul Robeson's early years becomes fascinating by dint of its subject's remarkable...


"THE YOUNG PAUL ROBESON: ""On My Journey Now"""

This slim, workmanlike account of Paul Robeson's early years becomes fascinating by dint of its subject's remarkable achievements. Brown, a longtime friend and collaborator of Robeson's (he was, among other things the coauthor of Robeson's book Here I Stand), writes with little embellishment about the life of one of our most impressive Americans. Robeson, born in 1898, was the son of Maria Louisa Bustill, an educated black woman from the North, and William Robeson, a runaway slave who eventually became a minister. Paul, the couple's youngest child, accumulated numerous honors in high school for his scholastic, debating, and athletic prowess, and won a prized scholarship to Rutgers University. There he again made high honors, was chosen best speaker in his class four years in a row, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year, lettered in four sports, and twice won All-American status in football (at the same time playing semi-professional basketball with the prestigious St. Christopher social club team in Harlem). Upon his graduation, he was accepted into Columbia University Law School, from which he graduated successfully, though this time without academic honors. Perhaps that was because, while in law school, he was also playing professional football, making his Broadway acting debut, pursuing a successful singing career, touring England with a theatrical troupe, and getting married. Brown ends this brief book with Robeson just about to hit his stride as an actor and singer, and with the great controversies in his life still ahead of him. Given Robeson's amazing talents, it's hardly surprising that this often sounds more like a litany of his accomplishments than a biography. It's only in his afterword that Brown injects a more intimate note, offering some wonderful anecdotes about Robeson's personal life, as opposed to his public persona.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0813331773

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Westview

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1996

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