Stamp of the Month: April 2023

Paul Robeson

The American singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul LeRoy Robeson was born on 9 April 1898 in Princeton, New Jersey. He died in Philadelphia on 23 January 1976. April 2023 marks the 125th anniversary of his birth.

GDR 22.3.1983

USA 20.1.2004

The son of a former slave, Robeson studied at Rutgers University and Columbia University, where, in addition to musical and academic success, he made a name for himself as a football player. From 1927 to 1939 he lived in London, where he became a convinced socialist under the influence of George Bernard Shaw, among others, and later a protagonist of the African-American civil rights movement.
Paul Robeson received his first role in a silent film as early as 1924. On Broadway he played “Othello” and with his bass singing voice he also made his breakthrough as a singer in the
Broadway musical “Show Boat” in 1932. Because of his political views, Paul Robeson’s passport was revoked during the McCarthy era, his records disappeared from the shops and his name was blacklisted, which was tantamount to a ban on performing in the United States. International committees then demanded freedom of travel for Robeson and organised “transnational concerts” over the telephone between the US and Europe. It was not until 1958 that he was allowed to leave the country again. He was celebrated at his performances in England and in the GDR and received several awards as the “embodiment of the ‘other’ America”.

Mali 10.5.1986

One of Robeson’s most famous roles was the dock worker “Joe” in the musical “Show Boat”. He performed the role on stage and in the 1936 film version. Robeson’s rendition of the song “Ol’ Man River” is one of the most famous ever performed on Broadway.