“The artist must elect to fight for freedom or slavery.”
Paul Robeson (1898–1976)
Singer, Actor, Activist
One of the most prominent black Americans of the 1930s and 1940s, Robeson won critical and popular acclaim for his stage and screen roles. It was as a concert singer, however, that he earned his greatest fame, performing a uniquely broad repertoire of spirituals, classical music, world folk songs, and political songs that reflected the struggles of the marginalized and disenfranchised. Admired by many Americans for his outspoken opposition to racial and social inequality, Robeson was reviled by others for his support of left-wing causes and open admiration for the Soviet Union. As the Cold War intensified in the 1950s, his political views cost him his popularity and, for eight years, his U.S. passport. Unable to perform abroad, and suffering from depression, exhaustion, and arteriosclerosis, Robeson last sang in public in 1961.