Thursday, January 29, 2009

Doing Work on Paul Robeson's Wikipedia Article and then I got Sidetracked

This entire and very volatile part of Jackie Robinson's life was absent from his Wikipedia article so I spent the better part of a day making sure it was included.

Statement About Paul Robeson to HUAC

Jackie Robinson struggled with his decision to testify before The House Committee on Un-American Activities regarding the widely misquoted[69] declaration made by the famous entertainer Paul Robeson that African Americans would not support the United States in a war with the Soviet Union due to their continued second-class citizen status under law following World War II[70]. Technically, Robinson was not required to testify, but he knew there would be repercussions if he did not.[71]

Paul Robeson had done previous service on behalf of Jackie Robinson's entry into professional baseball. At their annual meeting in December of 1943, Robeson had addressed the baseball owners. As both a former athlete and a leading man on stage, he assured them that integrating baseball would not cause violence but would in fact propel the country closer to its ideals.[72]Robeson was the first black man to speak before the owners on the subject and afterward they gave him a round of applause. After the meeting commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis remarked that there was no rule on the books denying blacks entry into the league.[73] Two years later Robinson became the first black baseball player in professional baseball.[74]

During week of July 13th 1949, Robinson eventually agreed to testify fearing that it might negatively and permanently and damage his career if he declined.[75] It was a major media event with Robinson's carefully worded statement appearing on the front page of The New York Times the following day. Robinson said that Robeson “has a right to his personal views, and if he wants to sound silly when he expresses them in public, that is his business and not mine. [76]He’s still a famous ex-athlete and a great singer and actor.” Robinson also stated that "the fact that it is a Communist who denounces injustice in the courts, police brutality, and lynching when it happens doesn't change the truth of his charges";racial discrimination in America was not "a creation of Communist imagination."[77] Neither immediately following his testimony nor at any time thereafter did Paul Robeson quarrel with or denigrate Jackie Robinson.[78] He refused to be “drawn into any conflict dividing me from my brother victim of this terror.”[79] Jackie Robinson never forgot the experience or what he perceived as Robeson's magnanimity. Near the end of his life Robinson wrote in his autobiography about the incident, [80]

"However, in those days I had much more faith in the ultimate justice of the American white man than I have today. I would reject such an invitation if offered now…I have grown wiser and closer to the painful truths about America’s destructiveness. And I do have increased respect for Paul Robeson who, over the span of twenty years, sacrificed himself, his career, and the wealth and comfort he once enjoyed because, I believe, he was sincerely trying to help his people."[81][82]

The reaction to Robinson's statement at the time in the white press was positive including an article by Eleanor Roosevelt in which she wrote, "Mr.Robeson does his people great harm in trying to line them up on the Communist side of political picture. Jackie Robinson helped them greatly by his forthright statements." [83]Reaction in the Black press was mixed. The The New York Amsterdam News was supportive, saying that "Jackie Robinson had batted 1,000 percent in this game" but the Black newspaper 'New Age' remarked that "being Jim Crowed by Washington's infamous lily white hotels In 1963" Robinson had left the capital immediately after his testimony.[84] and The Afro American Newspaper ran a disparaging cartoon depicting Jackie Robinson as a frightened little boy with a gun vainly attempting to "hunt" Robeson.[85] In 1963, when Robinson criticized the Black Muslims, Malcolm X harshly alluded to Robinson's earlier and potentially damning testimony of Paul Robeson.[86]

69^ Duberman, Martin,Paul Robeson 1989.pg358The Paris Speech and After
70 ^ Foner, Phillip,Paul Robeson Speaks 1978.pg197Address to The Paris Peace Conference
71 ^ Robinson, Rachel,Jackie Robinson:An Intimate Portrait 1996pg 225
72 ^ Pringle, Kenneth,Robeson, & Robinson," APBnews.com24 August 2001, p. 1
73 ^ Tygiel, Jules,Baseball's Great Experiment 1983pg30 Conspiracy of Silence
74 ^ Robinson, Jackie,I Never Had It Made 1972pg37 Breaking The Color Barrier
75 ^ Duberman, Martin,Paul Robeson 1989.pg361-362The Right to Travel
76 ^ Duberman, Martin,Paul Robeson 1989.pg361-362The Right to Travel
77 ^ Duberman, Martin,Paul Robeson 1989.pg361-362The Right to Travel
78 ^ Foner, Phillip,Paul Robeson Speaks 1978.pg219Lets Not Be Divided
79 ^ Foner, Phillip,Paul Robeson Speaks 1978.pg219Lets Not Be Divided
80 ^ Duberman, Martin,Paul Robeson 1989.pg361-362The Right to Travel
81 ^ Duberman, Martin,Paul Robeson 1989.pg361-362The Right to Travel
82^ Robinson, Jackie I Never Had It Made 1972.pg98The Price of Popularity
83^ Duberman, Martin,Paul Robeson 1989.pg361-362The Right to Travel
84 ^ Duberman, Martin,Paul Robeson 1989.pg361-362The Right to Travel
85 ^ Duberman, Martin,Paul Robeson 1989.pg361-362The Right to Travel
86^ Duberman, Martin,Paul Robeson 1989.pg527Attempted Renewal

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Blogger Jim said...

article defending Robeson's politics:

4:41 AM  
Anonymous CallMrRobeson said...

Thanks for reminding us of this information. I look forward to the day when google homepage has an image of Robeson on his birthday on April 9, as they have of Robinson today.
As in the words of Ol' Man River,
"He don' plant taters, he don' plant cotton, an' dem that plants 'em is soon forgotten..."

4:06 PM  

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