Rights Congress publishes book, Peekskill, USA, an eyewitness account
of the 1949 Peekskill riots by Howard Fast, exposing the racist
organizations and individuals who, with the collaboration of local and
State police, organized the violence.
· Speaks at several rallies protesting the Justice Department’s
indictment of W.E.B. Du Bois as a “foreign agent” because he advocates
peaceful solutions to the world’s crises.
· Leads delegation to the United Nations to protest the frame-up trial
of the Martinsville Seven.
· Walter White, NAACP Executive Secretary, capitulating to the
pressures of the Cold War, bitterly attacks Robeson in Ebony magazine
Speaks to 700 at testimonial dinner in Harlem, honoring W.E.B. Du Bois
on his 83rd birthday, sponsored by the Council on African Affairs.
Robeson is joined by Albert Einstein, Mary McLeod Bethune and other
luminaries in turning the dinner into a fight against thought control
and for the civil rights of Du Bois and all Americans.
February 24, 1951
Gives concert for the
Southside Negro Labor Council, at Metropolitan Community Church,
February 25, 1951
Sings and speaks at rally to launch another campaign for the FEPC.
April 20, 1951
US District Court for District
of Columbia rules against passport suit,
by asserting it has no power to act in his case. State Department files
brief with the Court opposing suit, “in view of the appellant’s frank
admission that he has been for years extremely active politically on
behalf of the colonial people of Africa.” Justice Department adds,
“During his concert tours abroad he has repeatedly criticized the
conditions of Negroes in the United States.” (In the summer, Paul, Jr’s
application for passport to attend 1951 World Youth Festival in Berlin
"Conversations about the New China," in Freedom.
Says, in part, "I'm for a peace right now that will call all foreign
troops out of Korea, certainly including our own boys who are not
helping to tear down one single 'colored only' sign by dying in
Korea….[I]f we're going to get anywhere against Jim Crow in our own
country, we can't do it by letting the man impose Jim Crow on other
June 29, 1951
Speaking to meeting of the
American People’s Congress for Peace, before
in Chicago, criticizes US police action in Korea and the threat to the
civil liberties of all Americans represented by the anti-constitutional
Smith Act and the jailing of Communists in the US. (Foner)
Is invited by National Union
of Mineworkers in England to give a series
of recitals throughout the Scottish coal fields, but must decline due
to travel ban.
Sings and speaks at picnic of
Ford Local 600, UAW, Detroit, attended by 10,000. (Foner)
August 12, 1951
Delivers eulogy at funeral of
Ella Reeve “Mother” Bloor. (Foner)
August 16, 1951
Appeals April dismissal of
October 27, 1951
Sings and speaks at founding
convention of National Negro Labor Council, in Cincinnati. (Foner)
The Crisis, official organ of NAACP, publishes “Paul Robeson—The Lost
Shepherd,” by Robert Alan. (It is later revealed that article resulted
from request by US Vice Consul in Accra, Ghana, for special story to
lessen Robeson’s influence in Africa.)
at City College of New York deny use of campus auditorium for Robeson
appearance scheduled for January 10, 1952. Student Council and campus
newspaper vigorously condemn the action as “an abridgment of academic
· Freedom Associates publishes pamphlet by Lloyd Brown, entitled Lift
Every Voice for Paul Robeson, and the Provisional Committee to Restore
Paul Robeson's Passport is formed in New York to mobilize public
support for Robeson's struggle to regain his passport.
November 5, 1951
Speaks at Conference for
Equal Rights for Negroes in the Arts, Sciences and Professions, in New
York City. (Foner)
November 15, 1951
Addresses “World Peace
Rally,” sponsored by National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, in
December 17, 1951
Heads New York delegation of
Civil Rights Congress presenting petition
to United Nations accusing the US government of genocide against its
Black citizens on the grounds that “some fifteen million black
Americans are mostly subjected to conditions making for premature
death, poverty and disease.” (Petition, entitled “We Charge Genocide:
The Crime of the United States Government against the Negro People,” is
simultaneously presented to UN representatives in Paris by William L.
Patterson.) Behind the scenes, the US government uses its influence to
have the petition circumvented by preventing the UN Human Rights
Commission from discussing the genocide charge.
Chairman of Council on African Affairs, raises funds in support of the
liberation movement in South Africa and organizes petitions to
President of US.
January 31, 1952
Prohibited from crossing
border into Canada, where he has been invited
to speak to convention of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers’ Union in
Vancouver, BC, speaks and sings to them by telephone from Marine Cooks
& Stewards Hall in Seattle. Over next six years, Mine, Mill
contributes much to Robeson’s struggle to regain his right to travel,
insisting also that, as Canadians, they have the right to hear an
international artist. To launch its protest, the Union organizes a
Robeson concert and rally to be held on May 18 at Peace Arch Park, at
the US-Canada border, in Blaine, Washington.
· Sings and speaks for world
peace and friendship among all nations, at Hartford Avenue Baptist
Church, in Detroit.
· Attends conference on the fight for peace in Latin America, held in
April 6 - June 2, 1952
Makes 30-state tour to raise
$50,000 to aid National Negro Council, Council on African Affairs and
April 28, 1952
Under a political climate
very different from that obtaining when Robeson sang at the San
Francisco War Memorial Opera House in November 1940 and again in March
1946, the Board of Trustees, following much public controversy, cancels
rental for a scheduled May 22 Robeson concert.
Robeson concert, sponsored by
National Negro Labor Council, is canceled by Oakland Municipal
May 8, 1952
Celebrates 54th birthday with concert at Rockland Palace, NYC, but
Manhattan Center breaks agreement to rent hall for another celebration
the same night.
· Receives plaque from International Ladies Garment
Workers Union, inscribed "Your life, your thoughts, expressed in words
and songs, binds the liberation struggle with the struggles of the
toilers towards a new, free and happy world."
Is honored at 54th birthday party, Arcade Ballroom, Chicago.
May 16, 1952
Senior Bishop William J.
Walls of AME Zion Church, at 34th quadrennial conference, comes out for
return of Robeson’s passport.
May 18, 1952
In dramatic defiance of
government’s ban on his leaving US soil,
standing on a flatbed truck parked one foot inside the US border at the
Peace Arch, in Blaine, Washington, speaks and sings to a crowd of
40,000 Canadians and Americans gathered on both sides of the border.
May 20, 1952
Gives benefit concert for
Civil Rights Congress, at Civic Auditorium, Seattle.
May 22, 1952
Having been barred from
performing in a concert scheduled for this date at the San Francisco
War Memorial Opera House, sings instead at Macedonia Baptist Church, in
concert sponsored by the National Negro Labor Council.
May 23, 1952
Sings for 5,000 at Berkeley High School Community Center Theater, at
concert sponsored by the National Negro Labor Council. Berkeley Mayor
Lawrence Cross speaks out on behalf of Robeson’s right to appear on Bay
Area stages, is sharp contrast to the stance taken by San Francisco
Mayor Elmer Robinson.
June 1, 1952
no local concert hall will now rent to him, speaks and gives free
concert to 13,000 jammed into Washington Park, in Chicago. The crowd is
there to pay tribute to Robeson for “his leadership in the struggle for
peace, democracy and the liberation of oppressed peoples.” The event is
sponsored by the Chicago Negro Labor Council.
July 4, 1952
and sings to 800 delegates in attendance at the third National
Convention of the Progressive Party, held in Chicago. (Foner)
Visits Albert Einstein at his home in Princeton, NJ. They enjoy the
entire afternoon discussing everything from music to peace to the
freedom struggles in South Africa. Lloyd Brown recalls trying to make
conversation with their illustrious host, “Dr. Einstein, it’s really an
honor to be in the presence of a great man.” Einstein, slightly
annoyed, replies, “But you came in with a great man.”
Brooklyn Academy of Music breaks contract with National Council of the
Arts, Sciences and Professions for cultural festival upon learning of
planned Robeson participation, citing alleged “danger of disorder” if
· City College of New York bars
Robeson’s appearance on its campus; Student Council calls the action an
“abridgement of academic freedom.”
· Publishes article in Freedom newspaper, “The Brave Trumpets of Albert
Einstein and His Fellow Scientists,” praising the group of thirty-four
of the world’s leading scientists who are protesting the government’s
denial of passports to many scientists, educators, writers, artists and
November 11-18, 1952
Despite attempts by
“patriotic” groups in Hartford, CT, to block his
appearance, gives scheduled recital as part of People’s Party
presentation at public school.
November 13, 1952
Speaks at meeting of National
Council of American-Soviet Friendship, in
New York, to mark 35th Anniversary of USSR and 19th anniversary of
American-Soviet relations. (Foner)
November 21, 1952
Sings and speaks to 1,500
delegates at Second Annual Convention of the National Negro Labor
Council, held in Cleveland. (Foner)
· Othello Recording
Corporation issues album, Robeson Sings. With
recording companies refusing to distribute his records or to record new
ones, and all concert halls, theaters, etc. closed to him, Robeson, who
had been listed among top ten highest-paid concert artists in 1941,
sees his income plummet from a high of over $100,000 in 1947 to about
$3,000 in 1952.
· Concert scheduled in Chicago is called off because mortgage holders
on church where it is to be held threaten that if he sings, they will
demand immediate payment or foreclose. Some African Americans holding
federal jobs are threatened with firing if they attend.
December 22, 1952
Awarded the International
Stalin Peace Prize. The Prize had been
established three years earlier to honor citizens of any country for
“outstanding service in the struggle against war and for the
strengthening of peace.” State Department denies him permission to
travel to accept award.
Still unable to obtain
passport, is forced to turn down hundreds of
invitations from overseas to perform concerts and to appear at peace
conferences and political events.
January 29, 1953
National Church of Nigeria, at
a ceremony attended by 5,000, honors
Robeson with the award “Champion of African Freedom,” in recognition
and appreciation of his “unswerving devotion and selfless service to
the cause of African liberation.”
Participates in the National Policy
Meeting of the American Peace Crusade, at the YMCA, Chicago.
Sings and speaks to 6,000 at
Detroit’s Sacred Cross Baptist Church, under auspices of Freedom
Associates of Detroit.
April 13, 1953
Issues statement, as Chairman
of Council on African Affairs, urging
support for jailed leaders and freedom struggles in Kenya and South
April 17, 1953
Gives recital at Hartford
Avenue Baptist Church, Detroit.
April 24, 1953
Issues statement, as Chairman
of Council on African Affairs, concerning
the US government’s labeling of that organization as “subversive” and
Justice Department’s order for the organization to register under the
McCarran Act. (Foner)
May 23, 1953
Sings at religious concert at
Calvary Baptist Church in Detroit.
May 31, 1953
Begins second nationwide
concert tour, with appearance at Greater St.
Peter’s Baptist Church in Detroit. Sponsored by Freedom Associates,
tour spans five months and takes him to West and Deep South.
Publishes article, “A Thousand Years? No---Now’s the Time for African
Freedom,” in Freedom newspaper.
June 7, 1953
Gives concert at Macedonian Missionary Baptist Church, San Francisco,
to a capacity crowd of 2,000, followed by a banquet in his
Sings to capacity audience of 1,700 at Embassy Auditorium, Los Angeles,
sponsored by the Los Angeles Citizens Committee.
Speaks and sings at anniversary celebration of Jewish People’s
Fraternal Order, at Embassy Auditorium, Los Angeles
June 21, 1953
Gives concert to overflow crowd at First Unitarian Church of Los
Angeles, with loudspeakers set up in two auxiliary halls.
Gives concert at Lawndale Baptist Church, Chicago.
Performs with the Mt. Olive Gospel Singers in a benefit for the
Tenants’ League, Altgeld Gardens Project, Chicago Housing
Sings and speaks to 25,000 at
"Peace and Freedom Concert," in Washington Park, under auspices of
Freedom Associates of Chicago.
Gives recital at Mt. Eagle Baptist Church, Chicago.
July 23, 1953
As Chairman of Council on
African Affairs, sends lengthy memorandum to
United Nations Commission on Racial Discrimination in South Africa,
urging the international organization to “take such measures as may be
necessary to halt the present oppression of the 10 million non-white
people of the Union of South Africa and to avert the dander to
international peace and harmony arising from the pursuit of the South
African government’s policy and practice of racial discrimination and
Applies for passport to
travel to England, France, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Request denied
by Passport Office.
August 16, 1953
Speaks and gives second
concert at Peace Arch, in Blaine, Washington,
once again demonstrating that US government cannot silence him. “And
why do they take my passport away? [B]ecause for many years I have been
struggling for the independence of the colonial peoples of Africa. And
that is meddling in the foreign affairs of the United States
government. Now, that’s just too bad, ‘cause I’m going to have to
continue to meddle. Other Americans can choose the refuse of Nazi
fascism. They can wander around the earth picking those who would keep
mankind in perpetual slavery. I choose to stretch my hand across the
oceans to the brave peoples of many lands.…There is no force on earth
that will make me go backward one-thousandth of one little inch.”
December 4-6, 1953
Speaks at Convention of
National Negro Labor Council, held in Chicago,
with 1,500 delegates. Asks, rhetorically, “Will shooting down Chinese
help us get our freedom? Will dropping some bombs on Vietnamese
patriots who want to be free of French domination help American Negroes
reach a plane of equality with their white fellow-citizens? And, most
important, will a war in support of [the apartheid government] in South
Africa, or the British exploiters in Kenya, or the French in Tunisia
place Black Americans on the same footing with whites?” (Foner)
· Speaks out angrily against
imprisonment of Jomo Kenyatta and the
effort to discredit the movement for Kenyan independence.
· Denounces US intervention and overthrow of Arbenz government in
Guatemala at rally sponsored by the International Workers Order.
· Sings and speaks at New York rally for Smith Act victims.
· Publishes article entitled
"Ho Chi Minh is the Toussaint L'Ouverture
of Indo-China, in Freedom. Says, in part, "Vast quantities of US
bombers, tanks and guns have been sent against Ho Chi Minh and his
freedom-fighters; and now we are told that soon it may be 'advisable'
to send American GIs into Indo-China in order that the tin, rubber and
tungsten of Southeast Asia be kept by the 'free world'---meaning White
Imperialism….[A]nd I ask again: Shall Negro sharecroppers from
Mississippi be sent to shoot down brown-skinned peasants in
Vietnam---to serve the interests of those who oppose Negro liberation
at home and colonial freedom abroad?" (Foner)
Campaigns are simultaneously
launched in US and England to protest the
government’s continuing “domestic arrest” of Robeson. In England,
National Paul Robeson Committee is formed, sponsored by Members of
Parliament and other notables—writers, scholars, actors, lawyers, trade
union leaders, titled persons. The Committee begins a “Let Paul Robeson
Sing” mass petition campaign, which gathers signatures from tens of
thousands of supporters. Over the next four years, many prominent
figures in Britain speak, as individuals and through their
organizations, for Robeson’s right to travel.
April 24, 1954
Is featured speaker at “Chicago’s Salute to the 2nd Anniversary of
Africa’s Fight for Freedom,” sponsored by the American Peace Crusade,
held at Metropolitan Community Church.
· Speaks at mass rally of Civil Rights Congress, at Washington Park,
· Gives concert to 1,500 at University of Chicago. Prior to the
concert, the sponsoring student organization is subjected to pressure
to cancel the invitation when local reactionary groups threaten
violence against any who dare to attend, and local newspapers denounce
the concert as “un-American.” But the students stand firm, declaring,
“We refuse to accede to a policy of suppressing those whose views are
controversial.” They also congratulate the university officials for
adhering to the tradition of academic freedom.
May 24, 1954
“Salute to Paul Robeson” from
his fellow artists, including Thelonious
Monk, Pete Seeger, Leon Bibb, Alice Childress, Julian Mayfield, Karen
Morley, Lorraine Hansberry, in support of his struggle to regain his
passport. The Renaissance Casino, New York, is packed and the overflow
crowd of over 1,000 have to be accommodated in an adjoining church.
Concert scheduled in Chicago is cancelled at last minute by local Board
June 1, 1954
All-India Peace Council circulates petition for return of Robeson’s
June 10, 1954
Speaks and sings at rally calling for amnesty for the Smith Act
victims, sponsored by the Civil Rights Congress.
State Department rejects application for reinstatement of passport.
Gives third annual concert at Peace Arch, in Blaine, Washington.
September 25, 1954
Speaks at meeting of National Negro Labor Council, in New York, urging
Black leaders to keep struggling for full equality for all African
Sings and speaks at rally sponsored by the Civil Rights Congress, at
Washington Park, Chicago.
October 19, 1954
New World Review magazine
sponsors “Cultural Tribute to the Robesons” in New York City.
· Gives concert under auspices of Chicago
Committee for Paul Robeson at
Pershing Hotel, with 500 attending.
October 31, 1954
Gives concert at the Chopin Cultural Center, Chicago.
November 16, 1954
Speaks at mass meeting of the
National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, at New Rockland Palace,
November 27, 1954
State Department again denies
passport, to attend Soviet Writers’ Congress, in Moscow, where he has
Gives two sold-out concerts within three days, at First Unitarian
Church of Los Angeles, as benefit for the tax fund of the Church, to
pay taxes growing out of the refusal of Church authorities to sign the
controversial loyalty oath in order to benefit by tax exemptions due to
Is invited, but, due to lack of passport, is barred from attending,
Asian-African Conference, held in Bandung, Indonesia; sends message.
April 29, 1955
Speaks and sings at May Day Rally in New York City.
April 30, 1955
Sings, reads from Othello and discusses world problems to over 1,000,
under sponsorship of Forum for Free Speech, Swarthmore College,
Council on African Affairs is disbanded because “continuing government
harassment made its work impossible.”
June 24, 1955
Gives concert at California Hall, San Francisco, as part of United
Nations Week celebrations.
Due to continuing public pressure, State Department eases travel
restrictions on Robeson, allowing him to travel to Canada, but nowhere
Pays farewell tribute to Leslie McFarland, African American member
active in work of International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s
Union, in Oakland, Ca.
July 24, 1955
Gives fourth annual concert at Peace Arch, Blaine, Washington.
Joins with hundreds in celebrating the victory over the government’s
persecution of Harry Bridges and its fifth attempt to deport the
Australian labor leader, at ILWU headquarters, San Francisco.
Speaks and sings to trade
unions, churches, youth groups, fraternal
organizations and women’s groups in Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco
and San Diego.
August 16, 1955
In hearing before Federal
District Court, judge refuses to order State
Department to issue passport to Robeson; implies one can be issued if
he signs non-Communist loyalty oath. Robeson refuses, telling
reporters, “Of course I won’t sign it. I consider it an invasion of
every constitutional liberty I have.”
September 9, 1955
Trade Union Congress in
England appeals to President Eisenhower to allow Robeson a passport to
come to Britain.
· Gives concert at Mother AME Zion Church, Harlem, where brother,
Benjamin, is Pastor.
Sings, with a Jewish folk chorus, at rally to protest discrimination at
Parkchester housing project, NY, organized by American Labor Party.
February 18-March 2, 1956
· Having won a partial victory in the struggle for his right to travel
abroad, in that he is now allowed to go to Canada, speaks and sings to
2,800 at Massey Hall, Toronto.
· Attends Convention of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, in Sudbury,
· Is interviewed and performs on Canadian Radio and Television.
March 11, 1956
Taped message from Robeson played to huge rally in Manchester, England,
sponsored by the National Paul Robeson Committee, whose “Let Robeson
Sing” campaign, has, since 1954, been flooding the US State Department
with petitions, letters and cables and will grow so large by 1957 that
it becomes a serious embarrassment to the US government.
State Department partially eases restrictions on Robeson’s travel,
informing him that he is now free to travel anywhere within the Western
Hemisphere, where no passport is required.
June 12, 1956
Is called before HUAC on
“Investigation of the Unauthorized Use of United States Passports.”
When asked by the Committee why, if he thinks Soviet Union is so
wonderful, he doesn’t just go live there, replies, “Because my father
was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I am going to
stay here and have a part of it just like you. And no fascist-minded
people will drive me from it.” Also tells them, “You
are the un-Americans and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves. You
should adjourn this forever.” To the questions about his Communist
affiliations, refuses to answer, afterwards stating to the press, “I
have made it a matter of principle to refuse to comply with any demand
that infringes upon the Constitutional rights of all Americans.” (Foner)
Emergency Civil Liberties Committee holds concert at Town Hall, New
York City, A Tribute to Paul Robeson, with proceeds going to help
defray costs of Robeson’s passport suit.
Is called before HUAC on
“Investigation of the Unauthorized Use of
United States Passports.” When asked by the Committee why, if he thinks
Soviet Union is so wonderful, he doesn’t just go live there, replies,
“Because my father was a slave and my people died to build this
country, and I am going to stay here and have a part of it just like
you. And no fascist-minded people will drive me from it.” Also tells
them, “You are the un-Americans and you ought to be ashamed of
yourselves. You should adjourn this forever.” To the questions about
his Communist affiliations, refuses to answer. (Foner)
· The US Supreme Court refuses
to hear appeal on Robeson’s passport
suit, because he continues to refuse, on principle, to ever sign a
· Newest edition of College Football and All-American omits him from
list of players on the 1918 and 1919 Walter Camp All-American team at
British Actors’ Equity Association votes to “make representation in
whatever quarters may have influence in allowing him [Robeson] to
perform in this country.”
May 17, 1957
Attends at Prayer Pilgrimage for Negro Rights, in Washington, DC,
celebrating Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education desegregation
decision of 1954 and calling for swift implementation of school
May 26, 1957
Paul Robeson Committee, in England, formed in 1954 to assist Robeson in
regaining his passport, organizes concert in which Robeson sings via
trans-Atlantic phone circuit to over 1,000 gathered at St. Pancras Town
Hall, London. The Manchester Guardian of May 28 says the concert has
succeeded in making “the United States Department of State look rather
June 23, 1957
Gives outdoor concert of folk
songs of many lands at the 7th Annual
Festival of Nationalities, of the Committee for the Protection of the
Foreign Born, Los Angeles.
Performs concert tour in
California. Sings to 5,000 in a park in Los
Angeles, under auspices of the Foreign-born Committee; to 2,400 more in
two concerts at First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles; then to another
1,100 at Third Baptist Church in San Francisco. Also sings at Saints’
Rest Baptist Church in Oakland, St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Sacramento
and several other venues. All these appearances are sold out within a
day or two of being announced.
July 26, 1957
Performs "An Evening of Music
and Poetry," at Third Baptist Church, San Francisco.
When the National Guard in
Little Rock, AR prevents nine Black students
from enrolling in Central High School, Robeson issues statement
demanding US government defend the Constitution in Little Rock and
calling for a national conference to challenge “every expression of
Ebony magazine publishes
article, “Has Paul Robeson betrayed the
Negro?” Author Carl T. Rowan concludes that, indeed, he has not.
October 5, 1957
Is invited by Welsh miners to
be honored guest at annual Eisteddfod
Music Festival. Appeal to Supreme Court for passport is rejected, but
he is able to sing on schedule, via trans-Atlantic telephone hook-up
between New York and Porthcawl, Wales, to the 5,000 gathered
October 18, 1957
Performs "An Evening of Music
and Poetry," accompanied by local pianist
William Duncan Allen, at Saints Rest Baptist Church, Oakland, CA.
November 10, 1957
Speaks and sings at annual
American-Soviet Friendship meeting at
Carnegie Hall, New York City, celebrating 40th anniversary of USSR.
Performs concert, accompanied by San Francisco Bay Area renown pianist
William Duncan Allen, at Ebenezer A.M.E. Church, in Stockton,