The Book of the Week is “The Undiscovered Paul Robeson” by Paul Robeson, Jr., published in 2001.
This is a biographical account of Paul Robeson from his birth until the start of WWII, written by his son. At times, it is like a soap opera. This ebook is mostly commentary on the diary entries, letters and notes of Robeson and his wife, Essie, and covers the following topics:
- Robeson’s runaway success as a scholar and athlete in the nineteen-teens in the United States
- how Robeson came to choose his ultimate career of professional actor and singer, starting in the mid-1920’s
- how Essie’s identity was dependent on Robeson’s because she gave up her own career to manage his career
- anti-black discrimination the couple encountered
- his extramarital affairs
- the intimate details of their relationship
- Essie’s health problems
- Robeson’s on-and-off presence during his son’s early childhood years
- Robeson’s philosophy on life and international political activities
Robeson took up the cause of fighting for civil rights for African Americans, but his son writes, “He lived a pampered, aristocratic life, far from the radical humiliations endured daily by even the highest-ranking blacks in the United States.” In the 1930’s, the Robeson family was living in the Soviet Union because the country showed no racism, colonialism or fascism; thus, Robeson was able to overlook the atrocities committed by Stalin at a time when the behavior displayed by other nations was ugly.
Also in the 1930’s, Robeson decided he did not want to act in theatrical or movie roles that portrayed negative black stereotypes. His mythic status, which eventually brought him great wealth, afforded him flexibility in deciding the course of his career.
Read the book to learn all you ever wanted to know about Paul Robeson up until WWII.