"The Unwritten History": Alexander Gumby's African America

Gumby's People > Paul Robeson


Scrapbook 112:
"Paul Robeson,"
p. [81]

Paul Robeson lived one of the most extraordinary lives of the twentieth century. He was one of the first African Americans to attend Rutgers College (later University), played professional football during the 1920s while simultaneously getting a law degree from Columbia University, and became one of the foremost singers and actors in the world even as his outspoken views in support of African-American civil rights and socialist policies (combined with praise for the Soviet Union's advances on both fronts) made him a polarizing figure from the 1930s to the end of his life in 1976. Noted for his serious dramatic turns in plays stretching from Shakespeare's Othello to Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones as well as roles in nearly a dozen Hollywood films, Robeson also was the most prominent entertainer of his era to perform African-American folk songs in a serious concert setting.

Gumby's scrapbook for Robeson is comprised almost exclusively of newspaper clippings rather than the more ephemeral items that appear in others of Gumby's volumes devoted to significant figures; in this case, the diverse contents of those clippings successfully hint at Robeson's many activities. In the page featured here, for example, items devoted to his concerts of "Negro Music" appear alongside two labels of recorded versions of that music (Robeson made more than 300 recordings over his career) and a clipping noting Robeson's 1925 trip to England to appear in a production of The Emperor Jones.


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