I first learned about Paul Robeson when walking down Fulton St. in Brooklyn. There it was. A beautiful old building Dr. Josephine English‘s theatre named after Mr. Paul Robeson. It serves ‘to enrich and strengthen the community through art, culture and education.’
Paul Robeson was a celebrated Black-American actor who fought relentlessly for civil rights both artistry and personally. He was one of the loudest vocalists to have Black folk admitted to the Whites-only MLB, 2 years before Jackie Robinson joined. He also fought to bring lynchers of the past to justice and worked to end the rising lynch laws of the country. It’s a testament to Robeson’s strategic-thinking to rectify the past, carve out new connotations of ‘Black’ for White-Americans and acknowledging the inter-connectedness of struggles shared by diverse populations who are equally marginalized.
Robeson was the son of an escaped slave. The video of Ol’ Man River from Show Boat speaks volumes to his personal experience, social analysis and inspires us to take action. Enjoy Paul Robeson’s heart-wrenching performance: