18 May

'Whether I am or not a communist is irrelevant. The question is whether American citizens, regardless of their political beliefs or sympathies, may enjoy their constitutional rights.' Paul Robeson to the House Un-American Activities Committee

May 18, 2009
1 min read

American singer, athlete, writer, civil rights activist, socialist and oh so much more Paul Robeson today in 1952 stood on the back of a flat bed truck on the US side of the US-Canadian border and sang of solidarity to an estimated 40,000 Canadians. His act was in defiance of a passport ban prohibiting him from leaving the US because of his left-wing political views and civil rights activities.

In his book, Here I Stand, Robeson ends with the poem Rail-Splitter Awake by Pablo Neruda, saying this ‘speaks for me’

Let us think of the entire earth

and pound the table with love.

I don’t want blood again

to saturate bread, beans, music:

I wish they would come with me:

the miner, the little girl,

the lawyer, the seaman,

the doll-maker,

to go into a movie and come out

to drink the reddest wine . . .

I came here to sing

And for you to sing with me