Celebrating creative black trailblazers for #BHM; meet…
Name: Paul Robeson
Born: April 9, 1898 – January 23, 1976. Princeton, (US)
Creative Discipline: Actor/Singer
Known for: This handsome, eloquent and highly charismatic actor became one of the foremost interpreters of Eugene O’Neil’s plays and one of the most treasured names in song during the first half of the twentieth century.
An American singer and actor who was a political activist for the Civil Rights Movement. His criticism of the US, amongst other things, brought retribution from the government and public condemnation. He was blacklisted, to his financial and social detriment, despite that, he refused to rescind his stand on his beliefs and remained opposed to the direction of US policies.
It was his father's background as a former slave, and his personal awareness of social injustices transformed Robeson into a political activist.
Robeson's renditions of spirituals, broadcast in, and imported to, Great Britain, became part of popular music in Great Britain in the 20th century. His portrayal of Shakespeare's Othello was the first of someone of African descent to take the role in Great Britain, in an otherwise all-white cast, since Ira Aldridge's 19th century portrayal. As of 2011, Robeson's run of Othello was the longest of any Shakespeare play on Broadway, running for 296 performances.
Early in his life, he was one of the most influential participants in the Harlem Renaissance. Few, if any, have achieved the level of excellence in athletics and academics which he accomplished. His achievements were all the more incredible given the barriers of racism that he had to surmount. Early in his theatrical career, his drawing attention of the extant racism in England brought public awareness to a problem that had been thought previously solved.
He was the first artist to refuse to play to segregated audiences.
His portrayal of leading roles, without the requisite subservience typical of African-Americans at the time, were later acclaimed by James Earl Jones, Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte as the first to display dignity for black actors and pride in African heritage.
Article by Lucy G / 3rd October 2012
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