Paul Robeson — Actor, Singer, Athlete, Lawyer, Political Advocate

by Liisa Kyle, Ph.D. on 05/23/2012

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Paul Robeson is best known for that iconic deep, bass voice singing ‘Ol’ Man River’ in Showboat.  But before he became an accomplished actor/singer on stage, screen and radio, he had found considerable success in other fields.  How many people can you name who were playing professional football in the NFL while simultaneously acquiring a law degree from Columbia?  That’s precisely what Paul Robeson did.

He practiced law before turning his attention to more creative endeavors…then parlayed his considerable fame into political pursuits as an outspoken advocate for civil rights.

It wasn’t easy.  His political activities had dire consequences for his artistic career and finances.  He was blacklisted and stripped of his passport —  preventing him from working in the US or abroad for almost a decade.  When a Supreme Court ruling eventually restored his passport, he resumed a vibrant international performing career…and continued his political passions, including becoming a pivotal advocate for Australian Aboriginal rights.

His life was complicated, difficult and controversial — and through it all, he pursued his diverse passions relentlessly.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Tamala July 22, 2013 at 5:44 pm

I actually worked a theater that was named after him and I never knew his story. Thanks for this write up 🙂

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