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Paul Robeson The Years of Promise and Achievement by Sheila Tully Boyle, Andrew Bunie

Paul Robeson The Years of Promise and Achievement



Paul Robeson The Years of Promise and Achievement by Sheila Tully Boyle, Andrew Bunie

This is a compelling biography of a great American in his formative years. The son of a former slave, Paul Robeson (1898-1976) rose to become an All-American athlete, Phi Beta Kappa student, internationally celebrated singer and actor, and champion of racial equality. Yet, despite his courage and many accomplishments, he could not overcome the combined effects of racism and McCarthyism. He was forced to live his last years in internal exile under FBI surveillance, without the respect he deserved. This massively researched biography takes Robeson from his humble beginnings in rural New Jersey to international fame on the eve of World War II. It presents a fully rounded picture - a portrait that corrects, supplements, and revises previous work on Robeson and his circle.


Twenty years in the making, this major biography covers Robeson's life from his birth in 1898 to the early height of his career in 1939. Focusing on the role of race in the development of Robeson's radical politics (e.g., how his understanding of political solidarity was broadened by exposure to anti-Semitism as well as racism at Rutgers), and how it manifested itself in his theater work (e.g., his refusal to use racially offensive language in revivals of O'Neill's The Emperor Jones), Boyle and Bunie confirm Robeson Jr.'s thesis that his father's career was cut short because of the racism and anti-leftism of the 1950s.... Boyle and Bunie have condensed a huge amount of research into an accessible, perceptive biography that will be essential reading for anyone interested in studies of race, performance or theater in America. - Publishers Weekly More than any other recent biography, this book helps us understand Robeson's fusion of art and scholarship, his feeling for languages, his search for an alternative to racism that eventually led him to the Soviet Union and to alignment with the Left generally. The work offers a moving portrayal of the racist indignities and insults to which he was subjected. - Herbert Shapiro, author of White Violence and Black Response Boyle and Bunie paint a positive yet warts-and-all portrait, in particular exploring Robeson's convoluted public and private lives.... Highly recommended for all libraries. - Choice Given the meticulous research that went into this excellent biography, one can only hope that Boyle and Bunie will devote another volume to the years of Robeson's demise. - American Historical Review The authors set Robeson's triumphs both against his personal failings and against pervasive racism.... This is an excellent biography. - Journal of American History

About the Author

SHEILA TULLY BOYLE is an editor and writer who specializes in American studies. ANDREW BUNIE is professor of history at Boston College.

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Book Info

Publication date

31st October 2005


Sheila Tully Boyle, Andrew Bunie

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University of Massachusetts Press


568 pages


Biography: arts & entertainment
Music: styles & genres



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