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for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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One of the most important causes of world tension has been and continues to be imperialist

enslavement of nations. Peace in Asia is directly linked with the problems of freedom

and full sovereign rights for the nations of Asia. As for Africa, most of that vast continent,

as we know, still groans in chains. In North Africa, in Kenya, East Africa, and

in other areas imperialist terror has been unleashed . . .



Books by and About Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson (Lives of the Left)  / Here I Stand  / Paul Robeson Speaks  /

The Undiscovered Paul Robeson , An Artist's Journey, 1898-1939  /  Paul Robeson: The Years of Promise And Achievement

Raul Robeson: Citizen of the World The Young Paul Robeson: On My Journey Now

Paul Robeson: The Great Forerunner /  Paul Robeson the Life and Times of a Free Black Man 

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Join Us on Tuesday, August 2 For the Panel and Community Dialogue


The State of Black-Asian Relations

Interrogating Black-Asian Coalition

Fifty Years After Bandung


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Greetings to Bandung

By Paul Robeson


Greetings to Bandung

How I should have loved to be at Bandung! In this Indonesian city for the week beginning April 18 the hopes of mankind were centered. Of course, the State Department still arrogantly and arbitrarily restricts my movements to the continental United States, so that I could not join the representatives of more than half the world who convened in the Asian-African Conference.

I felt impelled, however, to send a message to this historic conference and am happy to share that message with you in this month's column:

Heartfelt greetings to all of you, peoples come from the shores of the Ganges and the Nile, the Yangtse and the Niger. Nations of the vast Pacific waters, greetings on this historic occasion. It is my profound conviction that the very fact of the convening of the Conference of Asian and African nations at Bandung, Indonesia, in itself will be recorded as an historic turning point in all world affairs. A new vista of human advancement in all spheres of life has been opened by this assembly. Conceived, convoked, and attended by representatives of the majority of the world's population in Asia and Africa who have long been subjected to colonial serfdom and foreign domination, the Asian-African Conference signalizes the power and the determination of the peoples of these two great continents to decide their own destiny, to achieve and defend their sovereign independence, to control the rich resources of their own lands, and to contribute to the promotion of world peace and cooperation.

The time has come when the colored peoples of the world will no longer allow the great natural wealth of their countries to be exploited and expropriated by the Western world while they are beset by hunger, disease and poverty. It is clearly evident that these evils can be eradicated and that the economic, social and cultural advancement of whole populations of hundreds of millions of people can be rapidly achieved, once modern science and industrialization are applied and directed toward raising the general level of well being of peoples rather than toward the enrichment of individuals and corporations.

The possibility and practicability of such rapid social advancement have been attested by those who have objectively examined the history of the Soviet Union since 1917 and developments during the last decade in the countries of Eastern Europe, in China, and in newly emancipated Asian countries such as India.

I have long had a deep and abiding interest in the cultural relations of Asia and Africa. Years ago I began my studies of African and Asian languages and learned about the rich and age-old cultures of these mother continents of human civilization. The living evidence of the ancient kinship of Africa and Asia is seen in the language structures, in the arts and philosopies of the two continents. Increased exchange of such closely related cultures cannot help but bring into flower a richer, more vibrant voicing of the highest aspirations of colored peoples the world over.

Indeed the fact that the Asian and African nations, possessing similar yet different cultures, have come together to solve their common problems must stand as a shining example to the rest of the world. Discussion and mutual respect are the first ingredients for the development of peace between nations. If other nations of the world follow the example set by the Asian-African nations, there can be developed an alternative to the policy of force and an end to the threat of H-Bomb war. The people of Asia and Africa have a direct interest in such a development since it is a well known fact that thermonuclear weapons have been used only against the peoples of Asia. There is at present a threat to once more use them against an Asian people.

I fully endorse the objectives of the Conference to prevent any such catastrophe, which would inevitably bring about suffering and annihilation to all the peoples of the world. Throughout the world all decent people must applaud the aims of the Conference to make the maximum contribution of the Asian and African countries to the cause of world peace.

One of the most important causes of world tension has been and continues to be imperialist enslavement of nations. Peace in Asia is directly linked with the problems of freedom and full sovereign rights for the nations of Asia. As for Africa, most of that vast continent, as we know, still groans in chains. In North Africa, in Kenya, East Africa, and in other areas imperialist terror has been unleashed in an attempt to keep freedom-aspiring peoples in subjection. South Africa feels the lash of the redoubled racist fury of her white ruling class. For this is the time for liberation, and Africa too shall shout in freedom. Soon. Yes, now is our day!

The demand of Africa and Asia for independence from alien domination and exploitation finds warm support among democratic-minded peoples everywhere. Although the calling of the Bandung Conference evoked bitter words of displeasure from high circles in Washington, the common people of America have not forgotten that our own country was founded in a revolution of colonies against a foreign tyranny -- a revolution proclaiming that all nations have a right to independence under a government of their own choice.

To the Negro people of the United States and the Caribbean Islands it was good news -- great good news -- to hear that the Bandung Conference had been called "to consider problems of special interest . . . racialism and colonialism." Typical of the Negro people's sentiments are these words from one of our leading weekly newspapers: "Negro Americans should be interested in the proceedings at Bandung. We have fought this kind of fight for more than 300 years and have a vested interest in the outcome."

How I would love to see my brothers from Africa, India, China, Indonesia and from all the people represented at Bandung. In your midst are old friends I knew in London years ago, where I first became part of the movement for colonial freedom -- the many friends from India and Africa and the West Indies with whom I shared hopes and dreams of a new day for the oppressed colored peoples of the world. And I might have come as an observer had I been granted a passport by the State Department whose lawyers have argued that "in view of the applicant's frank admission that he has been fighting for the freedom of the colonial people of Africa . . . the diplomatic embarrassment that could arise from the presence abroad of such a political meddler (sic!) travelling under the protection of an American passport, is easily imaginable!"

So all the best to all of you. Together with all of progressive mankind, with lovers of peace and freedom everywhere, I salute your history-making conference.

Source: "Here's My Story," Freedom, April 1955

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Paul Robeson was the epitome of the 20th-century Renaissance man. He was an exceptional athlete, actor, singer, cultural scholar, author, and political activist. His talents made him a revered man of his time, yet his radical political beliefs all but erased him from popular history. Today, more than one hundred years after his birth, Robeson is just beginning to receive the credit he is due.

Born in 1898, Paul Robeson grew up in Princeton, New Jersey. His father had escaped slavery and become a Presbyterian minister, while his mother was from a distinguished Philadelphia family. At seventeen, he was given a scholarship to Rutgers University, where he received an unprecedented twelve major letters in four years and was his class valedictorian. After graduating he went on to Columbia University Law School, and, in the early 1920s, took a job with a New York law firm. Racial strife at the firm ended Robeson’s career as a lawyer early, but he was soon to find an appreciative home for his talents.

Returning to his love of public speaking, Robeson began to find work as an actor. In the mid-1920s he played the lead in Eugene O’Neill’s All God’s Chillun Got Wings (1924) and The Emperor Jones (1925). Throughout the late 1920s and 1930s, he was a widely acclaimed actor and singer. With songs such as his trademark “Ol’ Man River,” he became one of the most popular concert singers of his time.

His Othello was the longest-running Shakespeare play in Broadway history, running for nearly three hundred performances. It is still considered one of the great-American Shakespeare productions. While his fame grew in the United States, he became equally well-loved internationally. He spoke fifteen languages, and performed benefits throughout the world for causes of social justice. More than any other performer of his time, he believed that the famous have a responsibility to fight for justice and peace. . . . He retired to Philadelphia and lived in self-imposed seclusion until his death in 1976.

To this day, Paul Robeson’s many accomplishments remain obscured by the propaganda of those who tirelessly dogged him throughout his life. His role in the history of civil rights and as a spokesperson for the oppressed of other nations remains relatively unknown. In 1995, more than seventy-five years after graduating from Rutgers, his athletic achievements were finally recognized with his posthumous entry into the College Football Hall of Fame. Though a handful of movies and recordings are still available, they are a sad testament to one of the greatest Americans of the twentieth century. If we are to remember Paul Robeson for anything, it should be for the courage and the dignity with which he struggled for his own personal voice and for the rights of all people.PBS

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The Professor and the Pupil

The Politics and Friendship of W. E. B Du Bois and Paul Robeson

By Murali Balaji

Though honored as two of the most influential African-American leaders of the past century, journalist and novelist Balaji (House of Tinder) compensates in this political biography for "revisionist" historians who regularly omit Du Bois and Robeson's long-standing involvement with the Communist Party, distorting their impact on anti-colonial and radical political thought, eroding their legacies and diminishing their courage in the face of McCarthyism. Du Bois (1868-1963) began his career as an academic and authored 34 books, most notably The Souls of Black Folk, co-founded the NAACP and was an early advocate of Pan-Africanism. Best known for his Show Boat performance of "Ol' Man River" and his portrayal of Shakespeare's Othello, Robeson (1898-1976) gained international celebrity status (called "America's No. 1 Negro") with starring roles on Broadway and the London stage.

With both narrative chronology and close reading of their work, Balaji demonstrates how over time each became more radical, moved into the communist orbit in the 1930's, and ultimately met professional defeat in the 1950's when they refused to recant their convictions. Though overly detailed and occasionally rambling, this book provides a sharp look into an often overlooked aspect of black history.— Publishers Weekly

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits.  Weekly

Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers

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Race, Incarceration, and American Values

By Glenn C. Loury

In this pithy discussion, renowned scholars debate the American penal system through the lens—and as a legacy—of an ugly and violent racial past. Economist Loury argues that incarceration rises even as crime rates fall because we have become increasingly punitive. According to Loury, the disproportionately black and brown prison populations are the victims of civil rights opponents who successfully moved the country's race dialogue to a seemingly race-neutral concern over crime. Loury's claims are well-supported with genuinely shocking statistics, and his argument is compelling that even if the racial argument about causes is inconclusive, the racial consequences are clear.

Three shorter essays respond: Stanford law professor Karlan examines prisoners as an inert ballast in redistricting and voting practices; French sociologist Wacquant argues that the focus on race has ignored the fact that inmates are first and foremost poor people; and Harvard philosophy professor

Shelby urges citizens to break with Washington's political outlook on race. The group's respectful sparring results in an insightful look at the conflicting theories of race and incarceration, and the slim volume keeps up the pace of the argument without being overwhelming.—Publishers Weekly

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I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin's Life in Letters 

Edited by Michael G. Long

Bayard Rustin has been called the “lost prophet” of the Civil Rights Movement, a master strategist and organizer of the 1963 March on Washington and a deeply influential figure in the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Despite these achievements, Rustin often remained in the background, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era. Published on the centennial of his birth, and in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters  are his words shining through a collection of more than 150 of Rustin’s letters. His correspondents include major figures of his day — for example, Eleanor Holmes Norton, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Ella Baker and of course, Martin Luther King Jr. “I have file boxes full of Rustin’s letters that I tracked down in archives across the country,” said book editor Michael G. Long.

“The time it took to complete the research was much longer than I had predicted, not just because of the number of letters I had in hand, but also especially because for their high quality. It was incredibly difficult to weed out those letters I really liked but that did not serve the purpose of putting together a publishable narrative of letters. And there are quite a few of those that are topically fascinating but not easily fitting for a narrative.”phillytrib

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 26 March 2012




Home  Civil Rights: Struggle for Black Power  Richard Wright    Floyd W Hayes

Related files:     The Cultural Politics of Paul Robeson and Richard Wright  The State of Black-Asian Relations  Scandalize My Name