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January 23, 1976

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Paul Robeson ~ (actor, singer, athelete and activist) dies (Category : People)
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default, on 7/29/2007
Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976) was an actor, singer, athlete and scholar. He won some fifteen letters in four sports at Rutgers University and was one of the first Black Americans to graduate from Columbia University Law School.

Robeson was a renowned singer and is famous for his rendition of "Old Man River." He is also known for his acting achievements on stage and film in such productions as Showboat, The Emperor Jones, and Othello. At a time when Black actors were relegated to shuckin' and jivin', Robeson often played very strong characters who were quite in control of their lives.

It was during the red scare of the 1950s, when Robeson's life took a downturn; he was hounded by the House Un-American Activities Committee for his outspoken stand against American racism. He was blackballed. The State Development Commission of Connecticut went to court to prevent Robeson from visiting his family home in Enfield, Connecticut.

He became the only American denied a passport for his political views; namely, for the obvious purpose of being prevented from travelling the world spreading "unpatriotic" stories about the mistreatment of Black Americans: in August 1950, the State Department cancelled his passport, after he refused to sign an affidavit in which he would pledge that he was not a Communist. His fight to have it restored eventually lead him to the supreme court, where he won his case.

His political stance and refusal to back down cost him dearly. It took its toll on both his health and his income. Still, he was defiant to the very end:

The artist must elect to fight for freedom or for slavery... I have made my choice.
Paul Robeson


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