Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families

30Mar/150

Paul Robeson – Good Speech Endures

Good Speech Endures - Paul Robeson Statement to House UAComm 1956

26Jan/140

Remembering Paul Robeson (Part 2) – Another Thought & Resource

The other day I shared a brief post highlighting the anniversary of Paul Robeson's death in 1976. In the post I referenced Robeson's appearance and testimony during a hearing of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

I originally heard an excerpt from this occasion on one of the episodes of the Black Media Archive on iTunes (podcast, episode 214). It was a real treat to hear Paul Robeson during this event and incident. After doing some more digging I actually found the Paul Robeson audio excerpt online.

It's well worth checking out if you get a chance. Robeson takes the committee members to task, and gives far more than they bargained for. He was not only masterful with words, but far more intelligent than any of the committee members as well.

I'm a huge proponent of reading and study (which is harder for many people to do in this world full of distractions), yet in this case actually hearing Paul Robeson's tone and defiance is important. Our story in this country, and throughout the world, is not one of passive resignation and submission. We have always resisted and spoken truth to power. Indeed, that tradition continues.

This is an example our children must see more of...

Excerpt of Paul Robeson Testimony
House Committee on Un-American Activities
June 12, 1956
Duration: Approximately 11 minutes

On June 12, 1956, Paul Robeson was subpoenaed to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC).  During the testimony, convened to gain information regarding his alleged Communist affiliations, and the lawsuit regarding the revocation of his passport, Robeson refused to answer questions concerning his political activities and lectured bigoted Committee members Gordon H. Scherer and Chairman Francis E.Walter about African-American history and civil rights.

23Jan/140

Remembering the Example and Legacy of Paul Robeson

paul_robeson

Today marks 38 years since the great Paul Robeson's death (January 23, 1976).

Paul Robeson remains one of the great and widely under-acknowledged figures in American history. Indeed Robeson stands tall as one of the great figures in the history of African / African American resistance against racism, exploitation and oppression. Paul Robeson was a remarkably gifted scholar, athlete, actor, singer, orator, author and activist. Known and celebrated by audiences worldwide, Robeson made a deliberate decision to use his celebrity, influence and all of his talents and skills to advocate for freedom and justice for African people around the world, including the continuing injustices experienced daily by African American people.

For his outspokenness, and his scathing critique of racism in the United States and abroad, Robeson came under intense pressure by the United States government, including being called upon to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, during which Robeson takes the committee to task for their, and this country's hypocrisy and racism.

More resources about the life and legacy of Paul Robeson are available at the PBS American Masters page.

Additionally, here's another great piece about Paul Robeson, written by Professor John Henrik Clarke.

Just below are a few brief excerpts from Robeson's powerful testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (June 12, 1956; Courtesy of History Matters), followed by a February 1958 KPFA interview with Paul Robeson. Both of these resources provide a really good sense of Robeson's great intellect, courage, clarity of analysis and conviction.

Could I say that the reason that I am here today, you know, from the mouth of the State Department itself, is: I should not be allowed to travel because I have struggled for years for the independence of the colonial peoples of Africa. For many years I have so labored and I can say modestly that my name is very much honored all over Africa, in my struggles for their independence. That is the kind of independence like Sukarno got in Indonesia. Unless we are double-talking, then these efforts in the interest of Africa would be in the same context. The other reason that I am here today, again from the State Department and from the court record of the court of appeals, is that when I am abroad I speak out against the injustices against the Negro people of this land. I sent a message to the Bandung Conference and so forth. That is why I am here. This is the basis, and I am not being tried for whether I am a Communist, I am being tried for fighting for the rights of my people, who are still second-class citizens in this United States of America. My mother was born in your state, Mr. Walter, and my mother was a Quaker, and my ancestors in the time of Washington
baked bread for George Washington’s troops when they crossed the Delaware, and my own father was a slave. I stand here struggling for the rights of my people to be full citizens in this country. And they are not. They are not in Mississippi. And they are not in Montgomery, Alabama. And they are not in Washington. They are nowhere, and that is why I am here today. You want to shut up every Negro who has the courage to stand up and fight for the rights of his people, for the rights of workers, and I have been on many a picket line for the steelworkers too. And that is why I am here today. . . .

 

Because my father was a slave, and my people died to build this country, and I am going to stay here, and have a part of it just like you. And no Fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear?

 

Just a moment. This is something that I challenge very deeply, and very sincerely: that the success of a few Negroes, including myself or Jackie Robinson can make up—and here is a study from Columbia University—for seven hundred dollars a year for thousands of Negro families in the South. My father was a slave, and I have cousins who are sharecroppers, and I do not see my success in terms of myself. That is the reason my own success has not meant what it should mean: I have sacrificed literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars for what I believe in.