Sing and Shout: The Mighty Voice of Paul Robeson

Calkins Creek. Apr. 2020. 288p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781629798578.
Gr 6 Up–Readers of this thorough biography might ask themselves, “Is there anything Paul Robeson couldn’t do?” Robeson was one of the first Black students to attend Rutgers University, where he excelled at football and academics. Despite his many talents, Robeson couldn’t eat in a restaurant or stay at a hotel with his teammates when he traveled with this team because of Jim Crow laws. After a brief stint at New York University School of Law, he moved to Harlem in 1920 to attend Columbia Law School. After he graduated in 1922, he briefly pursued a career as a lawyer. Robeson gained fame with his marvelous singing voice, performing spirituals in concert, acting in plays, and appearing in hit films like Show Boat. He aimed to portray dignified African Americans in plays and films at a time when roles for people of color were relegated to degrading stereotypes. One of his biggest triumphs was portraying Othello on Broadway in 1943. As time went on, he devoted more energy to speaking out about civil rights. Robeson made connections between groups facing oppression across the globe, including those under Nazi occupation during World War II, fascist rule during the Spanish Civil War, apartheid in South Africa, and Black people in America. J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI labeled him a communist and took away his passport during the 1950s, but Robeson never stopped fighting against injustice.
VERDICT Middle and high school students will find inspiration in the life of this fascinating figure in African American history.

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