The Silencing of Paul Robeson

  • Glenda E. Gill


These words—from a Negro spiritual Paul Leroy Bustill Robeson sang and recorded in New York City on 10 May 1927—epitomize a gifted but tormented life. Robeson rose to the pinnacle of fame as an actor/singer, but fell to the nadir as an activist. On 23 January 1976, age 77, Robeson died, but Ebony asserted, in quoting Coretta Scott King, that he had been “buried alive” long before his funeral (Douglas 33). Many people today do not know his name, in spite of the 1998 Centennial Celebration of his 100th birthday. The curtain of silence had come down for too long.


York Time Supreme Court Decision Interracial Marriage American Theatre Black Actor 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Works Cited

  1. Beatty, Jerome. “America’s No. 1. Negro,” American Magazine, May 1944.Google Scholar
  2. Bentley, Eric. Are You Now or Have You Ever Been: The Investigation of Show Business By the Un-American Activities Committee 1947–1958. New York: Harper and Row, 1972.Google Scholar
  3. Bogle, Donald. “Paul Robeson: The Black Colossus,” in Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks, by Donald Bogle. New York: Continuum, 1996.Google Scholar
  4. Bontemps, Alex. “Culture,” Ebony, Aug. 1975.Google Scholar
  5. Browning, Michael. “Robeson: A Man of His Times,” Florida Times Union, 26 June 1978, A1 - A6.Google Scholar
  6. Burden of Proof,” Time 27 June 1949.Google Scholar
  7. Campbell, Colin. “Robeson’s Return,” Horizon, May 1978, 35–37.Google Scholar
  8. Clark, Catherine King. Entry on the Fisk Jubilee Singers in Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, ed. Darlene Clark Hine. Brooklyn: Carlson Publishing, 1993, 434–436.Google Scholar
  9. Corbin, John. Review of All God’s Chillun Got Wings, The New York Times, 16 May 1924, 22: 3.Google Scholar
  10. Corbin, John. “Mixed Marriages: A Word to the Unco Guid-Law Fields as a Classic Composer—A Not Too Wonderful Visit,” The New York Times, 18 May 1924, VII, 1: 1.Google Scholar
  11. Cripps, Thomas. Slow Fade to Black: The Negro in American Film, 1900–1942. London: Oxford University Press, 1977.Google Scholar
  12. Current Biography Yearbook 1941. ed. Maxine Block. New York: H. W. Wilson, Reissued 1971, 716–718.Google Scholar
  13. Current Biography Yearbook 1976. ed. Charles Moritz. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1976, 345–348.Google Scholar
  14. “Declaration of War,” Time 25 July 1949.Google Scholar
  15. Douglas, Carlyle. “Farewell to a Fighter,” Ebony, Apr. 1976, 33–42.Google Scholar
  16. Duberman, Martin. “A Giant Denied His Rightful Stature in Film,” The New York Times Arts and Leisure Section, 29 Mar. 1998, 1 and 38.Google Scholar
  17. Duberman, Martin. Paul Robeson. New York: Knopf, 1988.Google Scholar
  18. Embree, Edwin R. “Voice of Freedom,” in Thirteen against the Odds. New York: Viking Press, 1944.Google Scholar
  19. Emperor Jones and Paul Robeson, The: Tribute to an Artist. (Narrated by Sidney Poitier) Home Vision Cinema. Video. (gift of Sarah W Hruska)Google Scholar
  20. Fairtlough, Matt. http://www:8000/matt/ [brief biography of Joe Hill]. Fast, Howard. Peekskill: USA. New York: Civil Rights Congress, 1951.Google Scholar
  21. Franklin, John Hope. From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1947.Google Scholar
  22. Gelb, Barbara and Arthur. O’Neill. New York: Harper & Row, 1960.Google Scholar
  23. Graham, Shirley. Paul Robeson, Citizen of the World. New York: Julian Messner, 1946.Google Scholar
  24. Hayman, Robert L., Jr. The Smart Culture: Society, Intelligence and the Law. New York University Press, 1998. (courtesy of Eunice Carlson)Google Scholar
  25. Heath, Gordon. Deep Are The Roots: Memoirs of a Black Expatriate. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992.Google Scholar
  26. Hill, Errol. Shakespeare in Sable: A History of Black Shakespearean Actors. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1984.Google Scholar
  27. Hughes, Langston. Review of Paul Robeson, Negro by Eslanda Goode Robeson, in The New York Herald Tribune Books 29 June 1930, 1 and 6.Google Scholar
  28. Isaacs, Edith J. R. The Negro in the American Theatre. New York: Theatre Arts, 1947.Google Scholar
  29. “Journey’s End,” Time 14 Aug. 1950, 12.Google Scholar
  30. Kisch, John and Edward Mapp. “A Film Anachronism: Paul Robeson,” in A Separate Cinema. ed. Kisch and Mapp. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1992. (gift of Ed Hancock)Google Scholar
  31. Kroll, Jack. “Robeson’s Tragedy,” Newsweek. 30 Jan. 1978.Google Scholar
  32. “Lonesome Road, A,” Paul Robeson. Living Era Recording. (gift of Gloria Melton)Google Scholar
  33. Malveaux, Julianne. “Reflecting on Robeson’s Artistic and Sociopolitical Legacy,” Black Issues in Higher Education, 30 Apr. 1998, 28.Google Scholar
  34. Mason, Theodore O., Jr. Entry on Paul Robeson in The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, ed William Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997, 634.Google Scholar
  35. Mitchell, Loften. Black Drama. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1967.Google Scholar
  36. Mitchell, Loften. Voices of the Black Theatre. Clifton, New Jersey: James T. White & Company, 1975.Google Scholar
  37. “Mr. Robeson and Democracy,” Commonweal, 9 Sept. 1949, 524.Google Scholar
  38. Myrdal, Gunnar. An American Dilemma. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1944.Google Scholar
  39. “Nightmare in Peekskill,” Nation, 10 Sept. 1949, 243–44.Google Scholar
  40. Notes and Comment from “The Talk of the Town,” New Yorker 19 Sept. 1949, 23.Google Scholar
  41. Null, Gary. Black Hollywood: The Negro in Motion Pictures. Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1975.Google Scholar
  42. “Open Letter to the Entertainment Industry,” Variety 11 Jan. 1978.Google Scholar
  43. Ovington, Mary White. Portraits in Color. New York: Viking Press, 1927.Google Scholar
  44. “Paul Robeson,” Atlas Artists, n.d. (gift of Bart Lanier Stafford III)Google Scholar
  45. “Paul Robeson Centennial, The,” Ebony, May 1998, 110–112.Google Scholar
  46. Paul Robeson Centennial Website
  47. “Paul Robeson in Live Performance,” Columbia Records, 1958. (gift of Eunice Carlson)Google Scholar
  48. Paul Bustill Robeson’s Grave. html
  49. Pease, Lisa, “The Framing of Alger Hiss,”
  50. “Robeson Demands Violence Inquiry,” The New York Times 29 Aug. 1949, 19–23.Google Scholar
  51. Robeson, Eslanda Goode. Paul Robeson, Negro. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1950.Google Scholar
  52. Robeson, Paul. Here I Stand. New York: Othello Associates, 1958.Google Scholar
  53. Robeson, Susan. The Whole World in His Hands. Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1981Google Scholar
  54. “Robeson’s Plea,” Newsweek 1 Jan. 1951, 13–14.Google Scholar
  55. “Robeson’s Ruckus,” Newsweek 12 Sept. 1949, 23.Google Scholar
  56. Saal, Hubert. “Tragic Hero,” Newsweek, 2 Feb. 1976, 73.Google Scholar
  57. Schlosser, Anatol. “Paul Robeson: His Career in the Theatre, in Motion Pictures and on the Concert Stage” (Ph.D. diss. New York University, 1970 ).Google Scholar
  58. Sergeant, Elizabeth Shepley. “The Man with His Home in a Rock: Paul Robeson,” New Republic, 3 Mar. 1926, 40–44.Google Scholar
  59. “Solid Rock: Favorite Hymns of My People,” by Paul Robeson. Othello Records, 1953 (gift of Eunice Carlson).Google Scholar
  60. Sorel, Nancy Caldwell. “Paul Robeson and Peggy Ashcroft (First Encounters),” The Atlantic May 1992, vol. 269, no. 5, 105. (courtesy of Andy Thomas)Google Scholar
  61. “Stafford, Bart Lanier. Letters to author$116 Sept. 1976 and 24 Sept. 1976.Google Scholar
  62. “A Statement of Conscience,” Variety 11 Jan. 1978, n.p. (courtesy of Rob Rotman)Google Scholar
  63. Stewart, Jeffrey C., ed. Paul Robeson: Artist and Citizen. Piscataway, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  64. Whitman, Alden. “Paul Robeson Dead at 77; Singer, Actor and Activist,” The New York Times 24 Jan. 1976, 1 and 30.Google Scholar
  65. Woll, Allen. Black Musical Theatre: From Coontown to Dreamgirls. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Glenda E. Gill 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Glenda E. Gill

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations