Eslanda, Paul Robeson’s wife, new biography

This music video from the USA says about itself:

Paul Robeson, “Joe Hill”

Robeson singing the famous labor ballad with photo overlay.

This video from the USA says about itself:

Feb 12, 2013 – In a Black History Month special, we remember the lives of the legendary civil rights activist, singer and actor Paul Robeson, and his wife Eslanda, whose story is not as well known. One of the most celebrated singers and actors of the 20th century, Robeson was attacked, blacklisted and hounded by the government for his political beliefs. Eslanda Robeson, known by her friends as “Essie,” was an author, an anthropologist and and a globally connected activist who worked to end colonialism in Africa, and racism in the United States. We’re joined by historian Barbara Ransby, author of the new biography, “Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson.”

By Chris Searle in Britain:

Eslanda: The Large And Unconventional Life Of Mrs Paul Robeson

by Barbara Ransby (Yale University Press, £25)

Sunday 24 March 2013

She was a remarkable woman who for over four decades existed in the huge shadow of her renowned and world-acclaimed husband. But her own life was still one of independent cultural and political achievement.

Eslanda “Essie” Robeson, born in Washington DC in 1895, grew up in black middle-class circumstances with her formidable single mother and trained as a teacher, living in Harlem during its black renaissance period.

She married Paul Robeson in 1921.

In this powerfully engaging biography, Barbara Ransby tells how Essie prompted her husband towards his life as a singer and actor from unpromising beginnings as a New York lawyer.

But she also pursued her own life as an influential journalist and a relentless advocate for the rights of all women. A fearless anti-colonialist and activist scholar – particularly with regard to the unshackling of Africa – she was too a tireless anti-fascist and anti-racist against nazism and Francoism as well as Jim Crow racism in her own country.

She described her 1938 visit to the front line of the Spanish civil war in support of Republican troops as a “a major turning point in my life” and she was a long-time defender of socialism in any part of the world where it gave hope and promise.

After her lengthy visit in 1946 to the Congo, then still a Belgian colony, M15 labelled her as “a dangerous customer” and in the 1950s she repeatedly withstood the assaults of McCarthyism with courage and fortitude.

“The death moans of colonialism can be heard around the world mingled with the cries for self-government and independence and the shouts for peace and freedom,” she declared in a 1955 essay on the role of the emergent United Nations, with which she worked with dedication during its early years.

Ransby’s skilled word portraiture makes Essie come to life as a real human being, with compelling accounts of her emotional turbulence with her husband, her diverse friendships, her fight against illness and her determination to make her own contribution to the collective struggles and progress of her age.

It is a moving and deeply instructive life story of a woman who helped to lay massive political foundations and who became an inspiration and exemplar to many who came after.

8 thoughts on “Eslanda, Paul Robeson’s wife, new biography

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