The Young Paul Robeson: On My Journey Now

Lloyd L. Brown, Author Basic Books $24 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8133-3178-2
Not so much a biography as some of the material for one, Brown's memoir, prefaced by a probing for Robeson's ancestral roots, makes the reader long for the real thing, such as Martin Duberman's Paul Robeson. Only a few engaging lines reach beyond pedestrian level. The rest of the book furnishes information based on Brown's long friendship with Robeson, who died in 1976, especially his collaboration on the gifted actor-singer-activist's own Here I Stand (1957). Family history is followed by a recounting of Robeson's New Jersey school days, especially his athletic exploits, culminating with his becoming an All-American end at then-tiny (and private) Rutgers, and a pioneer professional in the ramshackle precursor to the NFL. Never intending to stay with sport and bored by Columbia Law School and the prospects of a racially limited legal career, Robeson was already developing his stage talents. Both as actor and singer he would become one of the best in the business in the 1920s and 1930s, yet he was frustrated by the color bar. The political radicalism toward which his beleaguered life, burdened by Jim Crow limitations, was building and that would lead to his becoming one of J. Edgar Hoover's Cold War targets, is only glanced at in this fragment of a life-a small work about a very large figure. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-8133-3177-5
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