by Colin Chambers - £20.00 Nick Hern Books (2006)
hardback ISBN 13: 9781854599209 | ISBN 10: 1854599208
Paul Robeson's international achievements as a singer and an actor made him the most celebrated black American of his day (he would have said 'Negro'). But his outspoken criticism of racism in the USA, his unflinching support of African independence, and his fascination with communism placed him under the debilitating scrutiny of McCarthyism. Blacklisted, and denied work, he refused to alter his views, but wrote his testimony, Here I Stand, in answer to his accusers.
In Here We Stand, Colin Chambers looks at Robeson's career and, by way of comparison, also at the life and work of both Isadora Duncan, whose Soviet sympathies provoked hostility and worse in her native America, and Charlie Chaplin, whose anti-war stance led to his expulsion from the US. In the light of these different experiences, Chambers asks important questions about the censorship of performers, the politics of performance and the dilemma of the celebrity activist.
The result is a fascinating and salutary reminder of how difficult it is to win fame as a performer and remain faithful to one's beliefs, especially when those beliefs run counter to the prevailing ideology, whatever it may be.
A successful performer speaks out at his or her peril - then as now.
(Price & availability last checked: August 2018)
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In booklists: Actors and Actresses, Music, Politics & Activism, Black America, Theatre, Film, Politics and Activism, Music Memoirs and Biographies, In categories: History & Biography, Music & Performing Arts, Changing the World, World - North America, Black, Asian & Other Diasporas, Politics & Philosophy,