From Publishers Weekly
Paul Robeson, one of the world's most famous actors from the 1920s through the 1950s and a man who led an extraordinary life by any measure, is not widely known today. In this moving and intimate memoir, his son, a freelance journalist and translator, blames his father's current obscurity on the public response to his outspoken left-wing politics and insistence on racial pride, evident throughout his careers in college sports, on stage and as a spokesperson for equal rights. Most pointedly at issue, in Robeson Jr.'s eyes, is the far-reaching, vituperative media campaign waged during the McCarthy era that (wrongly) labeled Robeson a Communist and caused him to be blacklisted from 1949 until his death in 1976. Born in 1898 to a runaway slave who became a famed minister and preacher, in 1915 Robeson was the third African-American admitted to Rutgers University, where, despite overt racism, he became a noted scholar, athlete and orator. After graduating from Columbia Law School, he tried his hand at the theater and, in 1924, was heralded for his performance in O'Neill's The Emperor Jones. Robeson went on to become an international star, notably playing Othello in London and appearing in the stage and film versions of the musical Show Boat. During this time, he also entered the political arena with his support of antifascist and leftist groups, later used by the press and anti-Communist witch-hunters to tarnish Robeson's reputation. Robeson Jr. writes forcefully of his parents' successes his mother, Eslanda, led a life as public as her husband's as well as of their troubled marriage. This version of his father's life is an important, well-wrought addition to African-American, Cold War and theater scholarship.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Paul Robeson is certainly one of the more tragic figures in 20th-century U.S. history. He was a gifted athlete, musician, scholar, actor, and activist who remained enamoured of Stalin long after others grew disillusioned. Now his son, owner and archivist for the Paul Robeson and Eslanda Robeson Collection, mines the collection's decades' worth of personal papers and diaries to explore the artist's intellectual development in the first of a proposed two-volume biography. Extensively illustrated with personal photos, this is a unique account of a brilliant but troubled man forced to seek the accolades he deserved in foreign lands. Often more anecdotal than analytical, this volume remains a necessary acquisition for all libraries and a welcome adjunct to Martin Duberman's definitive Paul Robeson: A Biography (LJ 1/89). Anthony J. Adam, Prairie View A&M Univ.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.