Paul Robeson: portraits of the artist

The Criterion Collection

All-American athlete, scholar, renowned baritone, stage actor, and social activist, Paul Robeson (1898-1976) was a towering figure and a trailblazer many times over. He made perhaps his biggest impact, however, in the medium of film. The son of an escaped slave, Robeson managed to become a top-billed movie star around the world during the time of Jim Crow America, always striving to use film to educate viewers about equality, democracy, and the rights of workers. Though he eventually left movies behind, using his international celebrity to speak on behalf of those denied their civil liberties and ultimately becoming a victim of ideological persecution himself, Robeson left a film legacy that continues to speak eloquently of the long and difficult journey of a courageous and outspoken African American.

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