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A Tribute to the Great Paul Robeson: Actor, Singer, Activist, and Scholar

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We conclude today’s show with the words of another person who was harassed by the FBI for his struggle against injustice. Like Judi Bari, he refused to be intimidated into silence . He would have been 104 years old today. He is the great Paul Robeson: actor, singer, athlete, scholar. For years, Robeson was tracked by the FBI as well as the CIA, Department of State, and numerous other government agencies. Together they compiled tens of thousands of documents on him, which they used to bring him before McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee. In 1949 Robeson was effectively blacklisted, and in 1950, the government revoked his passport. For eight years he was barred from travel, a prisoner in his own country.

Never to be defeated, however, Robeson found ways to challenge the government’s travel ban and continue to speak out. On May 18, 1952 he stood on a flat bed truck at the US-Canadian border and sang songs of defiance and solidarity to 40,000 people. One year later, he repeated the concert. He concluded it with this call to action and justice.

Tape:

  • Paul Robeson delivering his final address at the end of the 1953 Peace Arch Concert on the US-Canada border

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