From: Art McGee <>
To: <>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Paul Robeson and the Theater
Date: Saturday, April 08, 2000 11:55 PM

Paul Robeson and the Theater (excerpt)

By Amiri Baraka <>, Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire, Vol.2 no.1, Fall/Winter 1998

A 1946 meeting with President Truman at which Robeson urged Truman to oppose lynching (some 15 known lynchings took place that year alone and were registered in the presentation to the United Nations by Du Bois, William Patterson, and others called We Charge Genocide) turned into virulent hostility and confrontation. Reporters at one point besieged Robeson with questions like Are you a communist? Robeson told them of his general pro-socialist views but told them as well they had no business asking. To another question, Robeson answered that he would not turn the other cheek if attacked, but instead would tear (his assailant’s) head off, before he could hit me on the other. The most shocking statement of Robeson’s to Truman was that if the government did not do something about lynching, Negroes would! Truman, no slouch as an intellectual, said it sounded like a threat (Paul Robeson Speaks, 175).

From this moment on, the press declared war on Robeson. Concerts all over the country were canceled, 85 in 1948 alone. He was now widely called a Communist sympathizer. Yet Truman would not even issue a statement condemning lynching. Robeson was further labeled an avowed and active propagandist for un-American ideologies. From then on, it was open war: the anti-democratic U.S. government as the repressive armed power of capital, and its various lieutenants and flunkies, vs. Paul Robeson, revolutionary Afro-American artist.