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He became a key FBI target and by 1952, Robeson’s records were not played and his films were withdrawn. I am being tried for fighting for the rights of my people . His Communist sympathies implied disloyalty to America, even possibly ‘treason and espionage’. Yet his speech was magnificent: ‘Anything I have to say, or stand for, I have said in public all over the world . Paul never lost his anger about the fact that ‘upon the backs of my people was developed the primary wealth of America’, and the bigotry he experienced throughout his life makes shocking reading.Even when famous he’d be baited by whites who’d say: ‘Your daddy was probably one of my daddy’s slaves.Its inhabitants are required by law to be members of the Anglican Church and to pay taxes to support the church.
The white presbyterians expected William to keep the congregation ‘in line’ and he was not to preach against racial injustices. He found work as a dustbin man, collecting ashes in a cart, and was determined that Paul, born in 1898, would be educated.He visited Pontypridd and the valleys many times, seeing in the miners, who lived in poverty and struggled with thankless tasks, something of American slavery.The Welsh accepted him unquestioningly: ‘Aren’t we all black down the pit? As late as 1957, Robeson was joining in with the miners’ concerts through a radio-link from America to Porthcawl.Proceeding to Columbia Law School, Robeson passed his exams in 1923, though he found it impossible to practise in the profession.‘I don’t take dictation from a n*****,’ said a secretary. Luckily, he had already developed a passion for drama and singing from church events as a child.Concert bookings and recording contracts were signed and by 1928, Robeson was singing Ol’ Man River in Show Boat at Drury Lane. In huge headlines, this very newspaper saluted a ‘Giant Negro Actor’.
Robeson, who couldn’t rent a room in many American cities owing to official race prejudice and the ‘colour bar’, was now ‘living as an English gentleman’.