PAUL ROBESON: All American by Dorothy Butler Gilliam

PAUL ROBESON: All American

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Paul Robeson's life exemplified so much to so many that it is disappointing to find such a superficial account in the only biography available. This charts the attachments of his early years, follows him to football and Phi Beta Kappa at Rutgerss, Columbia Law School and the snubs from law firms, marriage to Essie Goode, and the inevitable career impasse. A growing political consciousness from his stage career, his surprise reception in England, the influential trips to Spain and the Soviet Union--the significance of these experiences is supported by friends and contemporary writings but undermined by generalizations which, like the subtitle, try to compensate for his Soviet leanings. The serious difficulties that he faced and the strain of public acclaim and private discrimination can partially explain the increased interest in political activity, but there is no deep investigation of his character, no way to understand what enabled him to champion the cause of black people with such courage and stamina. Harassed by HUAC and the FBI, angered by the Peekskill concert riots, he found hails closed to him, his passport denied, but he remained militant until his health declined: finally he secluded himself, never participating in the civil rights movement that reaped the benefit of his example. A popular view, then, but the definitive one remains to be written.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1976
Publisher: New Republic Book Co.