Academic journal article American Studies

ESLANDA: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson

Academic journal article American Studies

ESLANDA: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson

Article excerpt

ESLANDA: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson. By Barbara Ransby. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 2013.

Having written a highly regarded biography of Ella Baker, Barbara Ransby has turned her attention to Eslanda "Essie" Goode Robeson. While acknowledging Eslanda's identity as Mrs. Paul Robeson from the outset, Ransby seeks to highlight Eslanda's role as an important political activist in her own right. The author follows the chronological course of Robeson's life, seeking to highlight key themes and place her subject in historical context. Throughout this journey, Ransby emphasizes Eslanda Robeson's commitment to confronting racism, ending colonialism, support- ing socialism and communism, and advocating for women.

Because Ransby has sought to write a political biography, much of the narra- tive focuses on Eslanda Robeson's life from her thirties onward, when she began to develop a greater political consciousness. Through her work on a doctoral degree in anthropology, travels to Africa, connections to activist women, and continued cor- respondence with important global political figures, Eslanda Robeson articulated an internationalist vision of the black freedom struggle and class struggle and a nascent intersectional theory of black feminism.

In the postwar years, Robeson began to make some of her most important con- tributions, completing her book African Journey (1946) and becoming a member of the Council on African Affairs. She also became an advocate for women, challeng- ing their exclusion from positions of leadership. Much of Robeson's activism came through scholarship and journalism. Ransby writes, "[Eslanda] sought to research, understand, and write about changing global realities not as a disinterested scholar or an ostensibly impartial reporter, but as a passionate and engaged historical actor, a scholar-activist, and a radical writer trying to both uncover the truth and influence the future" (205). …

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