Once Again, The New York Times Whitewashes Paul Robeson

tags: Paul Robeson

Ron Radosh is a PJ Media columnist and Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute. Ron is a professional historian, and author or co-author of more than 15 books.

This morning, it was announced on the obituary page of The New York Times that the son of the famed African-American singer, Paul Robeson, Jr. had died.  As I read it, the following sentence appeared, and I realized that once again, “the paper of record,” as the old NYT used to be called, had whitewashed Paul Robeson’s activism. The sentence read:

While they had much in common, he said one difference was that he was a member of the Communist Party from 1948 to 1962 while his father never joined the party. (During the McCarthy era, his father faced F.B.I. surveillance after he criticized the government.)

That claim, as the Times writer could have found out with just a bit of research, is false. Robeson was in fact a secret member of the CPUSA for decades. On March 21, 1988, the story in the Communist newspaper, The Weekly People’s World, at the time of the celebration of what would have been Robeson’s 100 birthday, Gus Hall- the General Secretary of the CPUSA, announced:

We can now say that Paul Robeson was a member of the Communist Party…..During the period of McCarthyism, most of the Party was forced underground. Paul, and other trade union leaders were part of that.

Later, at a public meeting held in May,   Hall said, in a birthday tribute to “Comrade Paul,” as he called Robeson, that he had a special “birthday present for Paul that no one else could give.” That present, it turned out, was Hall’s revelation that “Paul was a proud member of the Communist Party USA; a man of true “Communist conviction.” In fact, he added, it was “an indelible fact of Paul’s life, [in] every way, every day of his adult life.” The real truth, he said, was “he never forgot that he was a Communist.” His most precious moment, Hall said, occurred “when I met with him to accept his dues and renew his yearly membership in the CPUSA.”

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