Paul Robeson: Here I Stand! | Chicago Reader

Paul Robeson: Here I Stand!

An affectionate but balanced PBS profile of Paul Robeson (1898-1976), the commanding actor, singer, and left-wing activist. The son of a minister, Robeson won a full scholarship to Rutgers University (where he was the only black student) and earned a law degree from Columbia University, but after prejudice stymied his legal career he turned to performing. The racism he endured in the U.S. led him to embrace the Soviet Union in the 1930s, and during the McCarthy era his income dropped precipitously. Director St. Clair Bourne offers a nuanced view of Robeson's failure to condemn Stalin's purges: during a live broadcast in the USSR he mentioned an imprisoned Jewish writer, but talking to U.S. reporters later he denied that the purges were taking place. While the clips of Robeson's film and stage performances are compelling, the now-standard practice of zooming and panning over still photos to illustrate the voice-over is tedious. 115 min.

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