Paul Robeson (1898-1976) was practically Superman: Class Valedictorian at Rutgers, All-American football player, was playing in the NFL when he got his law degree from Columbia, and was so talented a singer and actor that THAT’S how he ended up earning his money, starring in the original productions of All God’s Chillun Got Wings, The Emperor Jones, and Show Boat and an acclaimed Othello.
As time went on Robeson became a political activist. Fighting Fascists and securing rights for African Americans became his main purpose in life. In a healthy society he’d have been one of America’s proudest sons in his own time. Instead, he was written out of the football history books, prevented from working, prevented from traveling. He couldn’t make a living and it broke his health. He did indeed have an unfortunate political affiliation (the USSR) but really I wouldn’t begrudge any person of color in those days of thinking highly of a society where your people weren’t singled out and treated as a lower caste of human. Granted, in Russia, NO ONE had rights, but if, in America you were one of the 15% who were denied them based on your skin color, what difference did it make? Are you supposed to be in love with a country where your people get lynched, and that’s just how things are? Suck it up and be loyal? So Robeson became a propagandist for the Soviets, unselfishly foregoing whatever special privileges he might have otherwise enjoyed in the U.S. as a stage and screen star. A decade before MLK pressured JFK, Robeson was making a stink with Truman. (He was kicked out of Truman’s office).He was unconstitutionally persecuted for his beliefs, and basically sacrificed the last couple of decades or more of his life to what he thought was the greater good. Celebrate him today. If you’re not a fan of the left, celebrate his God-like excellence and his determination. He was as close to an Olympian as humanity can produce.Today’s a good day for it; it’s Paul Robeson’s birthday.