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Paul Robeson

@ National Portrait Gallery


Paul Robeson united great talent with a commitment to justice in a career that won him recognition and respect throughout the world. Educated at Rutgers University—where he was class valedictorian and a two-time football All-American—and Columbia Law School, Robeson sought greater opportunity than the legal profession then offered African Americans. In 1924 he established his acting career with starring roles in Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones and All God’s Chillun Got Wings. He also earned international acclaim later that decade for his concert performances of African American spirituals. For more than thirty years, Robeson traveled throughout the United States and Europe, appearing on stage, in film, and in concert. Speaking out against racial and economic injustice throughout his career, he often faced hostility as a consequence of his political views, especially in the years following World War II.Karsh remarked that Robeson’s “mobility of expression made him a fascinating subject.”
Gelatin Silver Print
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Estrellita Karsh in memory of Yousuf Karsh
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National Portrait Gallery

Record Harvested From

Smithsonian Institution