The Young Paul Robeson
By Lloyd L. Brown
Famous as a football star and prizewinning student, then acclaimed as a world-class concert singer and record-breaking actor on stage and screen, Paul Robeson became one of America's most controversial figures during the Cold War. Hailed by many as a forerunner of the civil rights movement, he was denounced by others and seen by the U.S. government as a threat to the nation's security at home and abroad.Now for the first time there is an illuminating, firsthand view of this remarkable African American by a writer who is uniquely qualified to tell the story. A close friend and coworker of Robeson's for twenty-five years, Lloyd L. Brown assisted in the writing of Robeson's book Here I Stand. Now he has combined painstaking research with personal observation in his own book, The Young Paul Robeson. He brings to the work a graceful and engaging literary style developed over his many years as an essayist and critic on African-American literature and culture.Reflecting on interviews with Robeson's schoolmates in elementary school, high school, Rutgers University, and Columbia Law School and drawing on original information from other sources, Brown provides a well-paced narrative of Robeson's life, from his birth in Princeton to the budding of his artistic career in Harlem. Because Robeson always attributed his achievements to the guiding hand of his slave-born father, the Reverend William D. Robeson, Brown traced Robeson's ancestral roots to North Carolina, where he found and interviewed cousins of Robeson as well as descendants of the family that had owned his father and his grandparents. Brown's discovery of how William Robeson escaped to freedom and gained academic excellence is one of the many aspects of the Paul Robeson legend told here for the first time.