PAUL ROBESON BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY:
Paul Robeson was born on April 9th, 1898 in Princeton, New Jersey with the birth name Paul Leroy Bustill Robeson. He had four siblings, William, Reeve, Marian and Benjamin. The children lost their mother in a fire and their father who worked as a minister raised the family alone.
Paul was a natural athlete, very tall and physically strong. He played High School football and received a scholarship to Rutgers University in 1915. While attending law school at Columbia University, Paul played professional football to earn money and also was involved in drama.
While in college he met his wife, Eslnada Goode in 1921 and she became not only his wife but his personal assistant as well. He was a very talented actor and his wife convinced him to take a role in, "Simon the Cyrenian" (1921) at the Harlem YMCA.
He soon followed that stage performance with a role on Broadway in, "Taboo" (1922) which lead to an opportunity to join the Provincetown Players, which was a theater group. He starred in two plays and from this point on, he was seen as a natural born actor.
His film debut followed in 1925 with a role on, "Body and Soul". Paul traveled to London to play Othello in the Shakespeare play in 1930. No United States companies were offering him employment, but finding work overseas was not an issue. He was cast in a British film, "Borderline" (1930) which was a silent film that dealt straight on with racial themes. He also had roles in, "The Emperor Jones" (1933), "Show Boat" (1936), "Sanders of the River" (1935) and "Song of Freedom" (1936).
He spent much of the 30's involved in politics and not shy about voicing his opinions. He traveled several times to the Soviet Union and addressed their lack of racial bias. He continued to express his concern for America and discrimination. In America, the public was disliking him for his political views and outspoken civil rights speeches against segregation.
Violence was not uncommon at his outdoor concerts when he would sing in defiance of the United States. He was even accused of being a member of the communist party and lost his passport for nearly ten years. He never gave up his US citizenship, but work in the US was not being offered to him and his only son had also married a white woman causing even more political uproar. He was also suffering personally with various suicide attempts, nervous breakdowns and an addiction to drugs.
In Europe, though, he was still admired and respected as an amazing performer and good man. While performing on stage in Europe in the 60's, he became ill and returned to the United States in 1963. Sadly, two years later he lost his only wife, Eslanda Robeson to cancer. He spent the remainder of his life in seclusion and depression. He did speak out against South Africa apartheid in 1978, otherwise he made no other public appearances.
On January 23rd, 1976 he passed away at the age of 77 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from complications of a stroke. He was an amazing man, eloquent, charismatic and he remains remembered as a symbol of racial pride. He was also a very intelligent man, able to write and speak over 20 languages and was also his class valedictorian.
Robeson received many honors such as, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998 and was pictured on a 37¢ USA commemorative postage stamp in the Black Heritage series, issued 20 January 2004. Robeson was also elected into the 2008 New Jersey Hall of Fame for his contributions to History.
1942 Tales of Manhattan
1942 Native Land
1940 The Proud Valley
1937 King Solomon's Mines
1937 Big Fella
1936 Song of Freedom
1936 Show Boat
1935 Sanders of the River
1933 The Emperor Jones
1925 Body and Soul