· Appears at NAACP Youth
Council Rally, Los Angeles.
· Leads demonstration of adults and children, sponsored by the
International Workers Order, in front of New York City Hall to protest
· Addresses Negro Youth
Builders Institute at YMCA, in Harlem.
· Following cancellation of scheduled concert at public school in Gary,
IN, performs at St. Paul’s Baptist Church.
January 17-18, 1949
Attends legislative conference
of Civil Rights Congress, in Washington,
DC. Leads conference delegates on march to White House to demand
government action against lynching; President Truman refuses to see the
Having decided the previous
year to return to the professional concert
stage, but having had 85 concert dates in the US cancelled due to
attacks on him for his political activities, begins 4-month European
concert tour, where all concerts are sold out, demonstrating that in
Europe, at least, Robeson’s popularity has not diminished.
March 25, 1949
Speaks in London at conference
attended by 3,000 sponsored by
Coordinating Committee of Colonial Peoples, protesting 1948 imposition
of apartheid in South Africa in violation of the United Nations Charter
and numerous UN resolutions, and in defiance of world public opinion.
Criticizes US for its support of apartheid government. Following
meeting, South African government bans playing of Robeson’s records on
Late March, 1949
Participates in the 3-day
Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace, held in New York
April 17, 1949
New York Age prints Robeson’s words, “I shall take my voice wherever
there are those who want to hear the melody of freedom or the words
that might inspire hope and courage in the face of despair and fear. My
weapons are peaceful, for it is only by peace that peace can be
attained. The songs of freedom must prevail.”
April 20, 1949
and sings at World Congress of the Partisans of Peace, in Paris,
attended by 2,000 delegates from 60 nations, including such leaders as
Pablo Picasso, Pablo Neruda, Julian Huxley, Joliet-Curie, to found the
World Peace Council. Reiterating what he has previously said in public
many times, again expresses his opinion that African Americans would
not go to war on behalf of those who have been oppressing them for
generations against anyone, including the Soviet Union. With the Cold
War intensifying, this speech reverberates around the world, as
American news reporters deliberately misquote him, causing widespread
controversy in the US. While few stop to question the accuracy of these
reports, Robeson becomes the object of pervasive, coordinated campaign
to silence and discredit him: constant FBI surveillance, vilification
in the mainstream media, harassment by the US government. There is also
total blacklisting of him by the entertainment industries: recording
studios refuse him dates; his records are withdrawn from stores and
dropped from all radio broadcasts; concert halls cancel his scheduled
appearances; his films disappear from public access. His name is
removed from the 1917 and 1918 list of All-American football players at
Rutgers University. Fearing reprisals against themselves, many Black
civil rights leaders publicly criticize Robeson and rush to
disassociate themselves from him, often declaring, “he doesn’t speak
Sings and speaks for disarmament to tens of thousands in Oslo,
April 27, 1949
Sings and speaks for disarmament to 16,000 in Copenhagen, Denmark. When
asked by a Swedish newspaper reporter what he really meant, in his
April 20 Paris speech, he explains that he was referring not only to
“American Negroes” but also to the forty million West Indians and the
hundred and fifty million Africans who have no stake in a war against
the Soviet Union. “What I said has been distorted out of all
recognition….The emphasis on what I said in Paris was on the struggle
for peace, not on anybody going to war against anybody.” American
reporters continue to harass him in every European city and persist in
twisting his words and misquoting him in their newspapers, thus fanning
the flames of hysteria now increasingly gripping the American public.
May 1, 1949
Sings and speaks to 40,000 at May Day celebration in Stockholm,
May 8, 1949
Sings and speaks at rally for peace and against racial discrimination,
at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool, UK.
May 10, 1949
In Manchester, UK, sings and speaks to 5,000 at benefit rally for the
Committee to Free the Trenton Six, New Jersey defendants on death row
who had been falsely accused of murder.
May 16, 1949
Gives free concert for 3,000 miners’ families, sponsored by the
Scottish National Union of Mineworkers, in Edinburgh,
May 21, 1949
Gives concert, with the Clarion Singers, at Town Hall, Birmingham,
England, sponsored by the British-Soviet Society (Birmingham Branch).
May 25-29, 1949
Gives concert to 15,000 at Smetana Hall in Prague, Czechoslovakia. For
two hours before program, Czech youth groups parade through the streets
to honor and welcome him to their city. Also sings for the workers at
several factories, gives radio interviews, and concludes his stay with
a Sunday concert at the Prague Stadium.
May 30, 1949
While in Poland for concerts, visits what was once the Warsaw Ghetto,
where several thousand Jews fought the Nazis to the last, woman and
child. Seldom has he felt such intense emotion as he experiences here,
as he climbs over the hills of ruble, beneath which are the bombed
homes and crushed bodies of those who chose to stand and fight to the
death. The example of their courage enters into him and strengthens his
resolve to continue to stand up and speak out for peace, freedom and
equality for all the oppressed peoples of the world.
June 4, 1949
Goes to the Soviet Union for several concerts.
June 6, 1949
Attends 150th anniversary celebration of the birth of Alexander
Pushkin, at the Bolshoi Theatre, in Moscow.
Gives concert at Tchaikovsky Hall, Moscow.
June 16, 1949
Returning home after
four-month concert and speaking tour of Europe and
Soviet Union, sings and speaks at Madison Square Garden for the civil
rights of the twelve Communist leaders on trial, including one of his
closest personal friends for over 40 years, Benjamin Davis, Jr., saying
that this trial is “a complete test of civil liberties in America;”
says it represents “a type of domestic fascism” and denounces Wall
Street’s “war policy.”
June 19, 1949
Addresses crowd of 5,000 at
Welcome Home Rally at Rockland Palace in
Harlem, under auspices of Council on African Affairs. Says Black
Americans “must lay the blame where it belongs and where it has
belonged for over 300 years of slavery and misery---right here on our
own doorstep, not in any faraway place.” (Foner) The Council publishes
Robeson's speech in pamphlet form, entitled For Freedom and Peace.
June 29, 1949
Speaks at Bill of Rights
Conference, in New York, sponsored by Civil
Rights Congress, again calling for an end to segregation and lynching.
The 1,200 delegates issue statement which says, in part, “We declare
that Robeson does, indeed, speak for us, not only in his fight for full
democratic rights, but also in his fight for peace.”
Speaks at conference in New
York, sponsored by the Committee for the Negro in the Arts.
July 17, 1949
Walks picket line with
strikers at Chrysler plant in Windsor, Ontario.
July 22, 1949
Speaks at mass meeting of
1,500 sponsored by the Civil Rights Congress
in support of the Trenton Six frame-up victims, in Newark, NJ. (Foner)
Article on Robeson in New
York Age calls him “A Great Fighter for His People.”
Writing in New Africa, states
that the fight for African American
equality in US is linked inseparably not only with struggles of all
American workers, but also with liberation movements of peoples of the
Caribbean and Africa and of colonial world in general.
August 4, 1949
Leads picket line in front of
White House, called by United Public
Workers of America to protest racist hiring practices at the Bureau of
Engraving and Printing, challenging President Truman to make good on
his civil rights promises and enforce the Fair Employment Practices Act.
Visits Camp Kinderland, a
secular Jewish and multi-cultural summer camp
established in Hopewell Junction, NY, in 1923. Sings and speaks to the
children, and they present him with an honorary scroll.
August 17, 1949
"Paul Robeson Day," organized
by campers and staff, is Robeson's ninth annual, and final, visit to
Camp Wo-Chi-CA. As always, sings for the kids, teaches them new songs
and plays softball with them.
August 27, 1949
annual concert to benefit the Harlem Chapter of Civil Rights Congress,
in Peekskill, NY, is prevented from occurring: At around 5PM, over
1,000 local vigilantes, led by the KKK and American Legion, invade the
concert grounds, wielding fence posts, clubs, rocks, brass knuckles and
knives. They viciously attack the people who are setting up for the
concert, the teenagers who have come early to be ushers, some younger
children from a nearby summer camp and the several dozen families
having an afternoon picnic before the concert. The attackers all the
while scream racist hatred: "We're Hitler's boys!" "We'll finish his
job!" "Lynch Robeson!" "Every n___ bastard dies here tonight! Every Jew
bastard dies here tonight!" They also smash and set fire to the 2,000
wooden folding chairs and the civil rights pamphlets and burn a cross
on the hillside. The victims, many in dire need of medical attention,
are besieged for over five hours, with not a policeman in sight
throughout, despite numerous calls for help phoned in from a
neighboring farmhouse. (It is later revealed that the local police were
aware of the events at the picnic grounds in advance but did nothing.)
Given the stated intention of the perpetrators, a massacre of thousands
is averted only because Robeson, the other performers and the would-be
audience are unable to reach the concert site, due to the fascist mobs
and piles of boulders blocking the entrance for two miles from the
highway to the park. Hundreds of affidavits from eyewitnesses later
reveal that the attackers are not all teenage boys, but many are
between 35 and 50, including prominent local businessmen.
August 28, 1949
A mass meeting is called by
the defenders of the previous night of
terror. Over 1600 residents of the Peekskill area attend, form the
Westchester Committee for Law and Order and decide to invite Robeson
sing at Peekskill again, because, they say, "We refuse to abandon any
section of the United States to organized hoodlums. Our freedom and
civil rights are at stake."
At a press conference of the
Civil Rights Congress, held at Hotel
Theresa in Harlem, Robeson calls for a Justice Department investigation
into the Peekskill outrage, which he links to Ku Klux Klan activities
in the South and the Germany of Hitler. Tells the 150 reporters
present, “I’m going to sing wherever the people want me to sing. My
people and I won’t be frightened by crosses burning in Peekskill or
August 30, 1949
Ten thousand people gather at
Golden Gate Ballroom, in Harlem, to hear
Robeson and others respond to the attack in Peekskill. It is announced
that there will be a second concert in Peekskill on September 4.
Following the meeting, the entire crowd marches down Lenox Avenue, with
one hundred mounted police unable to stop them.
and the Jews,” article published in The Jewish Fraternalist, Official
Publication of the Jewish Peoples Fraternal Order, International
September 2, 1949
Two effigies of Robeson are hung at night by Peekskill rioters.
KKK of the State of New York sends letter to People’s Artists, group
that organized the August 27 concert in Peekskill, “thanking” them for
helping to drive 722 people in Westchester County to join the racist
September 4, 1949
Despite many death threats and
other ominous warnings published in
newspapers and aired on radio over the previous week, the second
Peekskill concert is held successfully, under the protection of a well
organized, but unarmed, security guard of 2,500 friends and trade
unionists, who form a human "wall" encircling the concert area. But
afterwards, another nightmare ensues, when the 25,000-strong
interracial audience attempting to leave the site is ambushed and
violently attacked by racist mobs for three hours. All the while, the
900 local police and State Troopers not only do nothing to stop the
violence, but either stand by, laughing approvingly, or join in the
assault, beating the peaceful concertgoers with their clubs. While
insanely screaming anti-Black, anti-Semitic and anti-Communist slurs,
the rioters attack the concert-goers with sticks, bottles, clubs and
large rocks, shattering windows and overturning many cars, with
passengers inside them. Over 140 are injured, some seriously. The
mainstream media later blame Robeson for causing the problem by “daring
to go where he isn’t wanted.” Within a few days, hundreds of editorials
and letters appear in newspapers across the nation and abroad, by
prominent individuals, organizations, trade unions, churches and
others. They condemn not only the racist attacks but also the failure
of Governor Dewey and the State Police to protect the lives and
property of citizens, and call for full investigation of the violence
and prosecution of the perpetrators. Following the Peekskill riots,
other cities become fearful of similar incidents, and many scheduled
concerts are cancelled.
September 5, 1949
Speaks at protest rally of
5,000 in Chicago, denouncing Peekskill
attacks as “fascist,” blaming the police for their complicity and
calling for federal investigation.
Governor Thomas E. Dewey (R-NY) issues report by Westchester County
District Attorney George M. Fanelli exonerating the veterans’ groups
and police responsible for the violence at Robeson concerts in
Peekskill on August 27 and September 4.
September 12, 1949
Caving in to Cold War
hysteria, National Maritime Union convention
considers motion that Robeson's name be removed from union’s honorary
membership list; motion is withdrawn for lack of support among members.
September 20, 1949
All-China Art and Literature
Workers’ Association and All-China
Association of Musicians of Liberated China protest Peekskill attack on
· Voluntarily testifies at trial of 12 Communist leaders
the national hysteria represented in this trial goes to the root of
civil liberties for all Americans. Declares he knows the defendants and
that none of them advocated overthrowing the government.
· Committee to Protest the Peekskill Riots demonstrates, at Grand
Central Station, New York City, against Governor Thomas E. Dewey’s
failure to prosecute the perpetrators of the Peekskill riots.
September 23, 1949
Sings and speaks at Bakers’ Hall, Chicago, at rally sponsored by the
Civil Rights Congress of Illinois. Declares, in part, “I won’t keep
quiet until every Black man in America can walk with dignity in his own
country.” The hall is packed with 800 people, while another 1,500 stand
outside listening over loudspeakers.
September 24, 1949
In Chicago, when all major
civic halls refuse use of their facilities
to Robeson’s sponsoring host, the Civil Rights Congress, Dr. Louis
Rawls, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church opens its doors to Robeson
and to the 6,000 who come to hear him.
September 25, 1949
· Begins singing/speaking tour
sponsored by Council on African Affairs,
often at considerable personal risk, since American Legion and Veterans
of Foreign Wars picket concerts and attempt to stir up crowds. At all
appearances, speaks about how African American struggle for full
equality and civil rights is directly connected to the struggle for
world peace and the liberation of colonial peoples around the world.
· Sings and speaks at rally
of 10,000 in Washington Park, Chicago.
September 30, 1949
Sings and speaks to 16,000 at
Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, raising
$10,000 in contributions for 70th anniversary of The California Eagle,
edited by Charlotta Bass, one of the nation’s oldest Black newspapers.
In the days prior to the concert, the Los Angeles City Council calls
the upcoming concert “an invasion” and passes a resolution urging a
· Crowd of 3,000 in
Washington, DC hear Robeson denounce Fascism in
this country and declare himself loyal to an America that will accord
his people full freedom and equality, at rally sponsored by several
veteran, union, fraternal and civic groups.
· Soviet Union names Mount Robeson in his honor, the highest peak in
Republic of Kirghizia.
· In Philadelphia, 3,000 fill the Metropolitan Opera House to hear
Robeson sing and speak. Following his speech, applause is timed at 14
· Westchester Committee for a Fair Inquiry Into the Peekskill Violence
publishes report with eyewitness accounts, including photographs, of
the ugly events August 27 and September 4. The report proves police
collusion with the attackers and condemns Governor Dewey and District
Attorney Fanelli for their monstrous whitewash of the violence and
calls for a full Federal investigation of those organizations and
individuals responsible for organizing the attacks.
Speaks at luncheon for the National Labor Conference for Peace, Ashland
October 10, 1949
Sings and speaks against
Fascism and for peace, at rally of 10,500 at
Detroit’s Forest Club. Popular demand forces him to give repeat
performance at Shiloh Baptist Church that same evening. (Foner)
October 11, 1949
Howard University Medical
School holds dinner in his honor, at Dunbar
Hotel, Washington, DC, followed by Robeson concert at Turner's Arena.
October 12, 1949
Council on African Affairs
sends an open letter to President Truman,
signed by Robeson, as Chairman, and other officers of the organization,
in reference to the Peekskill attacks. It emphasizes that “Peekskill is
by no means an isolated instance of the violation of the constitutional
rights of American citizens.” It speaks of “increasing mob violence and
brutal atrocities against Negro citizens” in several states, as well as
“police brutality and murder” going unpunished. The letter concludes
with the warning: “…the time has come to utilize the agencies of our
government in actual fact toward promoting democracy at home and peace
abroad. The eyes of the world are upon you, Mr. President.” (Foner)
November 10, 1949
Speaks in favor of peaceful
relations with Soviet Union at banquet at
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, sponsored by National Council of American-Soviet
Friendship, in New York City. (Foner)
November 18, 1949
Sings and speaks at rally in support of Progressive Party, at Chicago
Sings and speaks to 2,700 at
Negro Freedom Rally in Washington, DC.
December 19, 1949
Files suit against Secretary of State Dean Acheson in attempt to stop
cancellation of his passport.
February 24-26, 1950
Participates, as Co-Chairman, in 2nd Annual Progressive Party
Convention and sings at public concert to honor the delegates to the
convention, at Ashland Auditorium, Chicago.
· NBC cancels Robeson’s
scheduled March 19 appearance on former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s
television program, Today with Mrs. Roosevelt.
Network spokesman declares that Robeson will never appear on NBC, thus
making him the first American to be officially banned from television.
Press release of the Civil Rights Congress declares that this
"censorship of Mr. Robeson's appearance on TV is a crude attempt to
silence the outstanding spokesman for the Negro people in their fight
for civil and human rights" and that our "basic democratic rights are
under attack under the smoke-screen of anti-Communism."
· Protesters picket NBC office for its banning of Robeson, and the
network is barraged with protests from public figures, organizations
and others outraged by this censorship and suppression of freedom of
March 15, 1950
Sings and speaks at “People’s Concert,” for the Progressive Party of
Illinois, at Tabernacle Baptist Church, Chicago, with 1,500 in
· Speaks to 3,000 who come to
Manhattan Center, New York City, to
protest the mounting Cold War jailing and suppression of free thought
and speech sweeping America.
Returns to Winston-Salem to sing and speak at funeral of Moranda Smith,
one of the principal organizers of Local 22, Food, Tobacco &
Agricultural Workers’ Union.
April 23, 1950
Is guest artist at 20th
Jubilee program of Jewish People's Fraternal
Order and International Workers' Order, at Orchestra Hall, Chicago.
Following police massacre of Black South African workers at a May Day
demonstration, speaks out against the terror of the “fascist Malan
regime” and, in prophetic words, warns, “It is later than they think in
the procession of history, and that rich land must one day return to
Africans on whose backs the proud skyscrapers of the Johannesburg rich
· Sings and speaks at World Peace Council meeting in London attended by
· Gives concert at Elks Auditorium, Los Angeles.
May 6, 1950
Selection announced for
African-American 1950 National Honor Roll,
sponsored by African American Newspapers. Citation reads: “Actor,
singer extraordinary, who has chosen to leave these peaceful arts in
which he gained fame in order to throw himself into the political fight
in which he hopes to win human dignity and equality for the common
May 14, 1950
Gives concert at Coliseum Bowl, San Francisco, as benefit for the
May 24, 1950
Leads vigil at White House,
urging President Truman to pressure Congress to pass the FEPC and the
anti-poll tax bill.
May 27, 1950
In article in The Nation, Earl
Schenck Miers writes: “As a product of
his times, Robeson today is perhaps more All-American that he was as
member of his college.”
May 31, 1950
Attends London meeting of
World Peace Council to expand the movement
around the Stockholm Peace Appeal to ban the use of the atomic bomb. Is
signatory to closing statement of the Council in opposition to the
imminent US intervention in Korea, 20,000 in attendance.
June 10, 1950
Delivers keynote address and
sings to the 1,000 Black and white
delegates at the National Labor Conference for Negro Rights, in
Chicago. This Conference calls for the founding of a National Negro
Labor Council (NNLC) and the building of Negro Labor Councils across
the country, to organize more militant fight-back against job
discrimination. Robeson speaks against U.S. arms shipments to the
French for use against Vietnamese patriots and calls for unconditional
prohibition of atomic weapons. The delegates establish continuations
committees to organize local councils throughout US. (Foner) The Harlem
Trade Union Council publishes Robeson's speech in pamphlet form,
entitled Forge Negro-Labor Unity for Peace and Jobs.
June 28, 1950
at Civil Rights Congress rally of 18,000 in Madison Square Garden,
denouncing U.S. police action in Korea and U.S. intervention in
Indo-China (Vietnam), Formosa (Taiwan) and the Philippines, and calls
for recognition of the People’s Republic of China. Says, “The place for
the Negro people to fight for their freedom is here at home.” (Foner)
July 4, 1950
Speaks against US
intervention in Korea at Harlem rally sponsored by Council on African
July 28, 1950
On advice of attorneys,
refuses to hand over passport. Now has no
choice but to cancel already completed arrangements for trip to Europe
to attend several meetings, to fulfill speaking engagements in a number
of countries, to give several concerts and to make recordings.
August 3, 1950
US government revokes his
passport, beginning 8-year legal battle to
have it restored. President Truman issues unprecedented executive order
forbidding Robeson to step foot outside the continental US on penalty
of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. State Department orders
Immigration and Customs Services and the FBI to stop him and arrest him
if he attempts to leave the country. The government makes it plain that
a boycott is to be imposed on Robeson. Eighty scheduled concerts in US
are cancelled; civic halls will no longer rent to him; the mass media
are closed to him; but he will continue to speak and sing in Black
churches and union halls. His name is expunged from the 1918 and 1919
Rutgers University Football All-Americans, thus retroactively rendering
the Rutgers team the only one in history to have only ten players.
Since his ability to earn a living is now conditional on his right to
travel abroad, the government’s action is tantamount to taking away his
means of livelihood as well as depriving him of his constitutional
rights to freedom of thought and expression.
August 7, 1950
In response to request by
Robeson’s lawyers for explanation of passport
submission order, State Department replies: “The action was taken
because the Department considers that Paul Robeson’s travel abroad at
this time would be contrary to the best interests of the United
States.” The real reason behind the persecution is the government’s
desire to silence Robeson because, wherever he goes, around the world,
he has always exposed the racism in the US and spoken out passionately
for the liberation of all colonial peoples; the government and
corporate America simply cannot allow this to continue.
August 28, 1950
State Department and demands to see Secretary of State Dean Acheson. Is
offered return of passport, if he will sign statement that he will not
make any speeches while abroad. Refuses, maintaining that his freedom
of speech is not negotiable, that it is his inalienable right, as an
American citizen, to travel freely and speak as he wishes.
August 29, 1950
Madison Square Garden refuses
rental to Council on African Affairs for its planned September 14
Robeson concert and rally.
Sing Out! magazine,
editorializes against the U.S. Government for
depriving Robeson of his freedom of speech by revoking his passport.
September 9, 1950
Speaks to rally of 6,000,
under auspices of Harlem Trade Union Council, held to protest
government actions against Robeson.
September 16, 1950
Speaks and sings at election rally sponsored by the Progressive Party
of Illinois, at Arcade Ballroom, Chicago.
October 5, 1950
Speaks at campaign rally for
W.E.B. Du Bois, in his run for US Senate seat on the American Labor
October 11, 1950
Mayor James B. Hynes bars
Robeson’s portrait from exhibition in public buildings anywhere in
Gives concert at Audubon Ballroom, NYC, for the electoral campaign of
Dr. W.E.B. DuBois for the U.S. Senate, under the auspices of the
American Labor Party.
November 3, 1950
Sings and speaks at rally sponsored by the Young Progressives of
America, at University of Chicago.
November 4, 1950
Gives concert for children at the Packinghouse Labor Center,
November 24, 1950
Addresses First National
Convention of Labor Youth League, at St.
Nicholas Arena, New York City, attended by 5,500 young people. (Foner)
Together with W.E.B. Du Bois
and Louis Burnham, founds monthly
newspaper, Freedom. Journal continues publication in Harlem, with
Robeson’s column, “Here’s My Story,” appearing as a regular feature in
most issues, until August, 1955.
December 19, 1950
Files suit in US District
Court against Secretary of State Dean Acheson, to have passport