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Paul Robeson

The African-American actor, singer and political activist who became a major star in British cinema of the 1930s.

Paul Robeson may have been an outcast in America, the country of his birth, but he found fame in Britain between the late 1920s and the outbreak of World War Two. With his booming bass singing voice and commanding screen presence, Robeson charmed Britain’s largely white audiences in roles that championed class solidarity and the struggle against oppression.

As Robeson became a major player in British cinema, he campaigned for screen roles that projected a positive image of black people, breaking away from traditional stereotypes. Although not all of his films lived up to such ideals (Sanders of the River in particular) Robeson left an indelible mark on British cinema and his portrayals became a benchmark for black screen representation for years to come.

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Paul Robeson
View Song of Freedom
Song of Freedom
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Song of Freedom 1936

A black London docker becomes a famous opera singer in this stirring musical drama starring Paul Robeson

80 mins United Kingdom Director. J. Elder Wills

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The Black Emperor
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The Black Emperor 1949

Paul Robeson demonstrates his vocal talents in this short extract from Song of Freedom

United Kingdom

"The artist must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative."

View Body and Soul
Body and Soul
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Body and Soul 1925 PG

Paul Robeson made an auspicious film debut in a twin-role, in this key work from pioneering black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux.

USA Director. Oscar Micheaux

"As an artist I come to sing, but as a citizen ...

"... I will always speak for peace, and no one can silence me in this."

View The Proud Valley
The Proud Valley
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The Proud Valley 1940 PG

Deeply moving mining drama that provided the legendary American singer/actor Paul Robeson with his best British film role.

77 mins United Kingdom Director. Penrose Tennyson

View Mining Review 2nd Year No. 11
Mining Review 2nd Year No. 11
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Mining Review 2nd Year No. 11 1949

American actor and singer Paul Robeson visits an Edinburgh colliery, where he regales miners with a rendition of 'I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hall Last Night'.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Peter Pickering

"I am the son of an emancipated slave and the stories of old father are vivid on the tablets of my memory."

View Sanders of the River
Sanders of the River
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Sanders of the River 1935 U

Alexander Korda’s colonial epic was disowned by its star Paul Robeson, but became a pivotal film in his fight for screen representation.

85 mins United Kingdom Director. Zoltan Korda

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King Solomon's Mines
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King Solomon's Mines 1937 U

The first adaptation of H. Rider Haggard’s famous novel, featuring Paul Robeson as a usurped king accompanying Allan Quartermain on an African adventure.

77 mins United Kingdom Director. Geoffrey Barkas, Robert Stevenson

"The answer to injustice is not to silence the critic but to end the injustice."

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