Paul Robeson Exhibit in Bay Area
Exhibition, March 31-April 30, 2008, Oakland City Hall Rotunda
April 9, 2008 will mark the 110th anniversary of the birth of Paul Robeson, son of an escaped slave who became world famous as a scholar, All-American athlete, singer, actor of stage and film, and political activist.
The exhibit draws from the extensive collection of memorabilia assembled by the Bay Area Paul Robeson Centennial Committee and consists of artifacts showing Robeson’s extraordinary achievements in the arts and politics.
Paul Robeson rose to prominence in a time when racism was the norm in America. He used his deep baritone voice to promote Black culture through the Spirituals, to share the cultures of other countries and to benefit the social movements of his time.
Starring in Othello at the Shubert Theatre, in New York, 1943-44, Robeson was the first African American to play the role with a white supporting cast on the Broadway stage. The show ran for 296 performances, setting the record for the longest-running Shakespearean production in the history of the Broadway theater.
In 1925, Robeson performed the first-ever concert in the United States devoted entirely to music composed and arranged by African Americans, thus bringing these songs to a prominent and respected place in the music world.
When Robeson first sang “Ol’ Man River” in Showboat in 1928, it was with the original lyrics, including the “N-word.” The exhibit will reflect how he changed the lyrics, turning the song from a sad lament into a fighting protest.
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Lorraine Paul - 3/22/2008
When my History Professor asked the members of his tutorial who in history they would like to meet. I stated - Paul Robeson. Further to that statement I was able to have achieved my goal in my early teens.
I shook the hand of Paul Robeson as a 15yo when he came to Australia. He was the first artist to sing at the Sydney Opera House. Committed to the class into which he was born he sang for those who were building this, now, Australian Icon.
A man of great ideas and warmth with a presence which could only inspire awe in his audience, whether on stage or giving an informal speech.
To this day, over 46 years later I can still feel my right hand being warmly enfolded in his.