An ode to Paul Robeson — Mistakes Were Made

marlon mosley
4 min readNov 14, 2021

From the 1920s to the 1940s, Paul Robeson made himself into a world renowned actor and singer. He was one of the primary stars of the Harlem Renaissance era. Around the mid-1940s, Robeson started getting involved in political activism. He started believing trade unionism was crucial to civil rights. Robeson became an outspoken advocate for African American rights in the still segregated United States. Robeson also became a proponent of union activist and Communist Party USA member Revels Cayton.

This affiliation brought Robeson on the U.S. government’s radar. Robeson was summoned before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. They questioned him about his affiliation with the Communist Party, to which he refused to answer. In 1949, they forced Robeson to do more concerts overseas because his U. S performances kept being canceled at the behest of the F.B.I. While Robeson was in Europe, he spoke at the World Peace Council. The speech was reported as equating America with a fascist state. This speech made Robeson an enemy of America, in the eyes of the American public.

On June 20, 1949, Robeson spoke at the Paris Peace Congress. He stated, “We in America do not forget that it was on the backs of the white workers from Europe and on the backs of millions of Blacks that the wealth of America was built. And we are resolved to share it equally. We reject any hysterical raving that urges us to make war on anyone. Our will to fight for peace is strong. We shall not make war on anyone. We shall not make war on the Soviet Union. We oppose those who wish to build up imperialist Germany and to establish fascism in Greece. We wish peace with Franco’s Spain despite his fascism. We shall support peace and friendship among all nations, with Soviet Russia and the people’s Republics.” For this speech, they blacklisted Robeson in the mainstream U.S. press. Many Black papers also blacklisted him as well.

A riot ensued in Peekskill when anti-Robeson protests shut down a planned Robeson concert. Thirteen concert goers were seriously injured, Robeson was lynched in effigy and they set ablaze a cross during the riot. Klan membership rose in the area by 748 after the riot. NBC canceled Robeson’s appearance on Eleanor Roosevelt’s tv show.

marlon mosley

recovering Lawyer, History buff who wants to share my knowledge with the world . To teach them lessons from our past. see all of the stories on