Paul Robeson on politics


I’ve just turned up some notes from a visit to last year’s exhibition about the inspirational black American singer and activist Paul Robeson, at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea.

To a meeting at the Albert Hall in London in 1937 in support of the Spanish Republic:

“The artist must take sides. He must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice”.

Also in 1937 about the Spanish Civil War:

“The war is between the Spanish people, poor, landless and disenfranchised, and the army, which is controlled by those who want to keep the Spanish people poor, landless, and disenfranchised”.

And in 1948, during the anti-Communist witch-hunts (which eventually led to Robeson having his passport impounded by the US authorities for five years in the 1950s):

“Whether I am or am not a Communist or Communist sympathiser, is irrelevant. The question is whether American citizens, regardless of their political beliefs or sympathies, may enjoy their constitutional rights.”

Robeson’s links with Wales were close, apparently after a chance encounter in London with some Welsh hunger marchers during the 1930s. There’s a fine lecture by Hywel Francis which explores this further.

The picture of Robeson in 1942 is from Wikimedia Commons.


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