Discovering Paul Robeson

By Leveton, Kari | Black Issues in Higher Education, April 15, 1999 | Go to article overview

Discovering Paul Robeson


Leveton, Kari, Black Issues in Higher Education


When I mentioned to my grandmother that I was planning to see the Paul Robeson exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., she was very excited.

"Your great-uncle introduced me to a record when we were kids called, `Ballad for the Americans.' It was long, at least ten minutes, but I remember it was all about freedom and equality. I used to be crazy about that album," she said.

I had only known Paul Robeson as the original singer of Jerome Kern's "Old Man River." I never knew that any of his songs had a political agenda.

My mother's comments added to my curiosity about Robeson.

"I think Paul Robeson was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, but I'm not sure why."

The more people I told about the exhibit, the more confused, intrigued, and excited I became. I was given nuggets of information about Robeson, some fact, some fantasy. I was determined to discover the truth. After viewing the National Portrait Gallery exhibit I found a speaker with the oratorical skills of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and an actor with the talent of Sidney Poitier and the looks of Denzel Washington. I found an athlete who could give Michael Jordan a run for his money and a crusader with the strength of conviction of Malcolm X. I found a thinker with the intellectual prowess of Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and a man with the resolute determination of Rosa Parks.

I was so moved that I decided to read one of the many biographies on Robeson. I selected The Young Paul Robeson: `On My Journey Now,' written by Lloyd L. Brown, because I was curious to see how one of Robeson's best friends would chronicle such an outstanding life. It was a good selection for someone like me who knew very little about Robeson's life. It also was a great companion to the exhibit, the pictures and photos of which gave fascinating accounts of a truly fascinating life.

Both Brown's book and the exhibit devote a lot of time to explaining how Robeson's experience on the field and in school primed him for the rest of his life. In the exhibit, two entire walls are devoted to the display of photographs and artifacts from Robeson's scholastic and athletic achievements. The son of a brilliant runaway slave, Robeson was taught early in life by his father "that the heights of knowledge must be scaled by the freedom seeker" and that "Latin, Greek, philosophy, history, literature -- all the treasures of learning -- must be the Negro's heritage as well."

Inspired by his father's example, Paul Robeson excelled in both scholastic subjects and athletics. When he graduated from the "colored" grammar school in 1911, "the local newspaper praised his commencement recitation as `a rendition whose excellence has seldom been surpassed by a public school pupil.'"

Robeson earned 15 varsity letters in four different sports while attending Rutgers University. He also won national recognition in football. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Discovering Paul Robeson
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.