My history hero: Paul Robeson (1898–1976)

Trades Union Congress General Secretary Frances O’Grady chooses Paul Robeson as his history hero

Singer Paul Robeson rehearses at a piano in 1958. He had a unifying outlook, observing that "neither suffering nor compassion is confined to one face." (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the November 2018 edition of BBC History Magazine

Paul Robeson was an American singer (bass-baritone), and stage and film actor also known for his political activism. Following the success of the London premiere of the musical Show Boat, in which he sang ‘Ol’ Man River’, he starred in a West End production of Othello, and a number of films, including a big-screen adaptation of Show Boat. He later supported the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War, but his leftwing sympathies and backing for the American civil rights movement led to him being blacklisted and having his passport taken away during the McCarthyite era. He died in Philadelphia in 1976, aged 77.

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