Paul Robeson – 1898-1976
Robeson earned a law degree from Columbia University in 1923, but, as a black man, found little opportunity to practice and became an actor. He was closely associated with the playwright Eugene O’Neill, appearing in O’Neill’s All God’s Chillun Got Wings (1924) and The Emperor Jones (1924), which made him a star. Robeson was also one of the great baritones of the 20th century. He brought the Negro spiritual to white audiences and became internationally famous in the role of Joe, singing “Ol’ Man River” in Jerome Kern’s epoch-making musical Show Boat. Beginning in the 1930s, Robeson became a left-wing political activist, for which his career suffered.