Paul Robeson: No One Can Silence Me

New Pr. Mar. 2021. 288p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781620976494.
Gr 8 Up–Duberman condenses his 1989 biography on the life of Robeson to a manageable 288 pages for young adults. Despite the significant abridgment, the text provides an in-depth look at the complicated life of an important figure in African American history. Born in 1898 to parents who were formerly enslaved, Robeson graduated first in his class from Rutgers in 1919 and then earned a law degree from Columbia University. Disillusioned with the legal field, he took to performing and quickly rocketed to international fame as an actor, singer, and civil rights activist. However, fame did not guarantee control of his career. Robeson found that despite his visibility and critical acclaim, the roles for Black actors were frequently stereotypes that projected the racist messages he fought against. Robeson was a voracious learner, with an interest in political philosophies. He became a supporter of communism but never became a member of the Communist Party. His support drew the scorn of people in the entertainment industry and piqued the attention of the FBI, who hounded him for decades, revoked his passport for many years, and ultimately may have led to the downward trend of his career. Duberman also delves into Robeson’s stormy personal life, from his difficult childhood, bumpy marriage, extramarital affairs, being a distant father to his young son, and his bipolar disorder late in life.
VERDICT A comprehensive and useful addition for middle and high school collections to pair with Susan Rubin Goldman’s Sing and Shout: The Mighty Voice of Paul Robeson.

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