Paul Robeson was a prize-winning scholar and the greatest footballer of his era, even before he ascended to global superstardom as a singer, Hollywood actor, and activist. The son of an escaped slave, Robeson stunned audiences with ‘Ol’ Man River’ and Othello, as his passion for social justice led him from Jazz Age Harlem to the mining towns of Wales, from the frontiers of the Spanish Civil War to Stalin’s Russia.
Charismatic, eloquent, and handsome, he had everything — and then lost it all for the sake of his principles.
Jeff Sparrow traces Robeson’s troubled life and stellar career, in a story that traverses the arc of the twentieth century and illuminates the fissures of today’s fractured world. From Black Lives Matter to Putin’s United Russia, Sparrow visits the places Robeson lived and worked, exploring race in America, freedom in Moscow, and the legacies of communism and fascism in Europe.
Part travelogue, part biography, this is a tale of political ardour, heritage, and trauma — a luminous portrait of a remarkable man, and an urgent reflection on the crises that define us now.