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Once the most famous African-American alive, Paul Robeson was a brilliant student and athlete who abandoned a legal career to find global fame as a performer and activist. Then he lost everything for his principles.
The son of a former slave, Robeson’s life took him for a segregated ghetto to Hollywood via the Harlem Renaissance and London’s West End. While he stunned audiences with his performances of ‘Ol’ Man River’ and Othello, he also championed social justice around the world, travelling from the coal-mining towns of Wales, to the frontiers of the Spanish Civil War, and to the Soviet Union. His journey would end in the courtrooms of the McCarthy hearings.
Jeff Sparrow – author of the new No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson – explores Robeson’s life, which ran in parallel with key current events of the twentieth century, and explains why it matters both as history and as an urgent reflection on the issues that define us now.