Thursday, September 03, 2009

gloomy sunday

Video: Paul Robeson sings Gloomy Sunday

I’ve sat in on classes where people are talking about the ’30s and about civil rights and about Martin Luther King, and there’s this gap, as if this man never existed. He’s one of the giants of the civil rights movement, and no one knows.

Joan Landzberg, who witnessed the Peekskill Riots at 13, speaking in today's New York Times of performer and civil rights advocate Paul Robeson who was the headline act of the concert that kicked off those riots.

According to the Times:
Born in 1898, the son of a slave who became a minister, he was the third black student admitted to Rutgers University. He became the dominant college football player of his time, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, was class valedictorian and earned a law degree from Columbia University.

He almost single-handedly legitimized black spirituals and folk music as an art form and became perhaps the world’s most famous concert singer as well as a renowned actor. His performance in “Othello,” on Broadway in 1943, was one of the most celebrated of his time. He was befriended by Jawaharlal Nehru, Noel Coward, Sergei Eisenstein, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and Emma Goldman.

He became a pioneering and uncompromising human rights advocate. He spoke out against segregation decades before the civil rights movement began, and was a fierce opponent of colonialism when that was barely an issue.

It's fairly certain Robeson's Communist sympathies are the reason he doesn't appear in our histories.

Tomorrow night there will be a musical celebration of Paul Robeson in Peekskill, NY hovering quite near the anniversary of those riots (which the People's Weekly World has written about at length).

Robeson Celebration
September 4, 2009 8:00pm
Paramount Center for the Arts
Peekskill, NY
An Evening with Friends, A Celebration of the Legacy of Paul Robeson
A benefit concert featuring David Amram, Roy Haynes, Ty Jones, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, Kenneth Anderson, Beth Lamont, Jon Batiste Band, Ray Blue and more special guests


Anonymous said...

Here's a clip about riots surrounding a scheduled performance in 1949

suttonhoo said...

very cool -- thanks for posting -- is Bob Hope doing the narration on that?

sounds an awful lot like him but I don't see his name in the metadata.

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