Starring Paul Robeson

Starring Paul Robeson

5 Episodes

All-American athlete, scholar, renowned baritone, stage actor, and social activist, Paul Robeson (1898–1976) was a towering figure and a trailblazer many times over. He was perhaps most groundbreaking, however, in the medium of film. The son of an escaped slave, Robeson managed to become a top-billed movie star during the time of Jim Crow America, headlining everything from fellow pioneer Oscar Micheaux’s silent drama BODY AND SOUL to British studio showcases to socially engaged documentaries, all the while striving to project positive images of Black characters. Increasingly politically minded, Robeson eventually left movies behind, using his international celebrity to speak for those denied their civil liberties around the world and ultimately becoming a victim of ideological persecution himself. But his film legacy lives on and continues to speak eloquently of the long and difficult journey of a courageous and outspoken African American.

Subscribe Share
Starring Paul Robeson
  • Body and Soul

    Episode 1

    Directed by Oscar Micheaux • 1925 • United States
    Starring Paul Robeson, Mercedes Gilbert, Lawrence Chenault

    Although the 1920s brought him acclaim as a stage actor and singer, Paul Robeson still had to prove himself as a viable screen performer. Mainstream avenues were limited, however, and his...

  • The Emperor Jones

    Episode 2

    Directed by Dudley Murphy • 1933 • United States
    Starring Paul Robeson, Dudley Digges, Frank Wilson

    Of all Paul Robeson’s eleven starring film performances, by far his most iconic was his breakthrough in the big-screen adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s THE EMPEROR JONES (1933). He was already a leg...

  • Sanders of the River

    Episode 3

    Directed by Zoltán Korda • 1935 • United Kingdom

    Seeking out new avenues for his artistry, Paul Robeson moved his family to London in 1928. During the next twelve years, he headlined six British films, pioneering uncharted territory for Black actors and reaching a level of prominence unthinkable...

  • Song of Freedom

    Episode 4

    Directed by J. Elder Wills • 1936 • United Kingdom
    Starring Paul Robeson, Elisabeth Welch, Esme Percy

    In a deal unprecedented in its time, Paul Robeson was given final cut on this remarkable and unique tale of racial alienation in 1930s Britain. He is typically magnetic as John Zinga, a Black do...

  • Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist

    Episode 5

    Directed by Saul J. Turell • 1979 • United States

    Saul J. Turell's Academy Award-winning documentary short Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist, narrated by Sidney Poitier, traces his career through his activism and his socially charged performances of his signature song, "Ol' Man River."