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Paul Robeson - 1898-1976 American Actor , Singer and Activist
The Soul of a Continent: By Kathy Smith, Manchester High School
In the rich ethos of African culture is the belief that a man possesses a “thought-soul”, a spirit that keeps his individual identity even after being separated from the body. Unlike most conceptions of the soul, it is said that the thought-soul eventually dies and may be forgotten… a man’s identity may be lost.
Paul Robeson became steeped in the American way of life and made pronounced contributions to the diversification of American culture through film and music. More enthralling were his civic activities and the fight he fought. His fight for equal rights and the fervor with which he pursued it is an ode to Francis Scott Key’s lyrics when he wrote “then conquer we must, if our cause it is just”.
Robeson sung songs of equality and anti-hate, as if spurred by the soul of a continent. His baritone voice told the truths of a man desperate to retain his thought-soul, his identity and African spirit.
“In my music, my plays, my films, I want to carry the central idea to be African”, this statement is so powerful and profound, it goes to the very essence of knowing one’s self. To be African is more than an idea, it is a charge to the soul, an unbridled reluctance to stop listening to the voices of the continent that continue on, stentorian, in the souls of Africans.
Standing up against racism and prejudice, Robeson was not just a member of the African Diaspora; he was among the many great men and women of a generation who never stopped listening to the soul of the continent. He exuded the spirit of the Mother Land; strong, passionate, proud and free, African and truly worthy of any distinction or honor that comes his way.