The great singer, Paul Robeson was born in Princeton, New Jersey, USA on 9 April 1898. His father, William was a Presbyterian minister and a former slave; his mother, Maria was also descended from slaves. For Robeson as an African-American, the ‘American Dream’ was a nightmare. At Rutgers College he was subjected to deliberate violence on the football field; his concerts were disrupted by the Ku Klux Klan; he was hounded by the government on account of his communist sympathies. And yet, it is difficult to think of any human being in the whole of history who was more multi-talented. At Rutgers he was admitted to the very highest academic societies: he subsequently played football in the newly-created NFL; he became acquainted with more than 40 languages, and played the piano. He played ‘Othello’ at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon, and ‘Joe’ in the film, Show Boat. Yet it was his voice, arguably the finest bass baritone ever to be possessed by a human being, and the message contained in his songs and speeches that echoed right around the world. Here was a message of hope for the poor and underprivileged everywhere, of whatever colour or creed. They too could bring down the ‘Walls of Jericho’; gain access to the ‘Promised Land’; and finally, be carried to Heaven on a ‘Sweet Chariot’! As an author, the challenge for me was to see if I could make contact with any of Paul’s descendants and any descendants of his slave owner, who might have unique information about the Robeson family, and to find out where exactly his father, William and mother, Maria had been enslaved. The search was a fruitful one; beyond my wildest dreams, as the reader will discover!
Includes over 60 rare and/or never before seen images.
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