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Paul Robeson: Words Like Freedom

Painting of Paul Robeson on CD cover

Original Art by Miranda Bergman - Design by Lisa Roth


This documentary was made possible in part by funding from The Puffin Foundation, the LEF Foundation, Jean Anderson & Ugo Pezzi

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A good additional resource - Paul Robeson 100th Birthday Committee 

A New Audio CD

"I defy any part of this insolent, dominating America, however powerful; to challenge my Americanism; because by word and deed I challenge this vicious system to the death."

With this CD, we introduce you to rare spoken words of the great Paul Robeson, illuminating a side of this amazing man’s personality and politics that has too often been suppressed. Robeson saw it as his responsibility to speak the truth about conditions both domestic and abroad knowing that his fame would allow these messages to be more widely heard. He was also deeply aware of the consequences and faced the official repression against him with dignity and courage.

Embodied in Paul Robeson’s character and contributions is a message for coming generations that is usually whitewashed, even in sympathetic portrayals. At its core, Robeson’s message is one of militant, uncompromising resistance to racism, oppression, and tyranny—a “must keep fighting” spirit, even in the face of repression and the threat of death. On this CD you’ll hear Robeson express this deeply rooted radicalism in great love for his own African-American people, their culture, and their revolutionary contributions, and you’ll hear it articulated in solidarity with poor and oppressed peoples and nations the world over.

“The artist must elect to fight for Freedom or for Slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.”

In creating this CD, the Freedom Archives offers a unique resource that can be used with history courses and heard by many who may never before heard the passion and eloquence of Robeson’s spoken words. These excerpts were selected by two young producers, Sele Nadel-Hayes and Patricia Hemphill, as those most relevant for their own and future generations. They listened to the large amount of Robeson-related material in the Freedom Archives, much of it gathered by senior producer Emiliano Echeverria including exclusive recordings made available to Emiliano by progressive journalist Sidney Roger and longshore activist Joe Johnson.

Produced by Sele Nadel-Hayes and Patricia Hemphill, with Lincoln Bergman, Emiliano Echeverria, Claude Marks, all from The Freedom Archives, and Bonnie Weiss of the Bay Area Paul Robeson Centennial Committee. Sound production, Greg & Camilo Landau, with the music of Babatunde Lea.

Booklet design: From a painting by Miranda Bergman, entitled Keeps On Rollin’ & with the gifted hand and craft of Lisa Roth.

Thanks to Joe Johnson for the historic vision to have recorded the appearances of Paul Robeson in the Bay Area as part of his lifelong civil rights and union activism.

Sidney Roger for his recordings of Robeson and a life of radical journalism.

Thanks to the Puffin Foundation and LEF Foundation for all their support on this project and our friends Jean Anderson & Ugo Pezzi for that final push!

Thanks to the Pacifica Radio Archives and to KPFA-FM for the use of portions of a longer interview of Robeson by Elsa Knight Thompson and Harold Winkler, conducted at a time when he was “white-listed” by most other media.

Thanks to KPFA for their role in broadcasting this material.