The Literary Digest sent a letter to Paul Robeson in December of 1933 asking for the correct pronunciation of prominent names that are liable to be mispronounced such as his. Stating "will you kindly indicate as exactly as possible your own pronunciation of your name: also, the syllable that is stressed?"
"Certainly," responded Mr. Robeson. "The name is: Robeson: Robe as in the ordinary word, robe, meaning dress, and son pronounced like the word son, meaning a male child. The name is pronounced in two syllables only: Robe-son."
To be free . . . to walk the good American earth as equal citizens, to live without fear, to enjoy the fruits of our toil, to give our children every opportunity in life--that dream which we have held so long in our hearts is today the destiny that we hold in our hands.
[A] socialist society represents an advance to a higher stage of life-that is, a form of society which is economically, socially, culturally, and ethically superior to a system based upon production for private profit. History shows that the processes of social change have nothing in common with silly notions about "plots" and "conspiracies." The development of human society-from tribalism to feudalism, to capitalism, to socialism-is brought about by the needs and aspirations of mankind for a better life.
-- Quoted in Here I Stand
I have heard some honest and sincere people say to me, "Yes, Paul, we agree with everything you say about Jim Crow and persecution. We're with you one hundred percent on these things. But what has Russia ever done for us Negroes?" . . . The answer is very simple and very clear: "Russia," I say, "the Soviet Union's very existence, its example before the world of abolishing all discrimination based on color or nationality, its fight in every arena of world conflict for genuine democracy and peace, this has given us Negroes the chance of achieving our complete liberation within our own time, within this generation."
-- Quoted in Paul Robeson Speaks p. 240
Mankind has never witnessed the equal of the Constitution of the U.S.S.R. . . . Firstly, because of the significance it has for my people generally. Everywhere else, outside of the Soviet world, black men are an oppressed and inhumanely exploited people. Here, they come within the provisions of Article 123 of Chapter X of the Constitution, which reads: "The equality of the right of the citizens of the U.S.S.R. irrespective of their nationality or race, in all fields of economic, state, cultural, social, and political life, is an irrevocable law. Any direct or indirect restriction of these rights, or conversely the establishment of direct or indirect privileges for citizens on account of the race or nationality to which they belong, as well as the propagation of racial or national exceptionalism, or hatred and contempt, is punishable by law."
-- Quoted in Paul Robeson Speaks, p. 116
The Soviet Socialist program of ethnic and national democracy is precisely the opposite of the Nazi, fascist, South African, and Dixiecrat programs of racial superiority. One of Africa's foremost leaders, Gabriel D'Arboussier, Vice President of the African Democratic Union in France's African colonies below the Sahara . . . has said this: "All the anger of the reactionaries directed against the Soviet Union is also directed in other forms against the colonial peoples. The latter have learned, thanks to these reactionaries, that there is a natural alliance between the country of socialism and the oppressed people the world over."
-- Quoted in Paul Robeson Speaks, p. 238
Visit . . . lands of socialism. You will see a new kind of human being-one shaped in conditions where deep concern for others is basic, where there is a sense of real togetherness, joined with deep concern for the highest development of individual excellence and initiative.
-- Quoted in Paul Robeson Speaks, p. 464
[W]e can make clear what peaceful coexistence means. It means living in peace and friendship with another kind of society--a fully integrated society where the people control their destinies, where poverty and illiteracy have been eliminated, and where new kinds of human beings develop in the framework of a new level of social living.
-- Quoted in Paul Robeson Speaks, p. 338
The large question as to which society is better for humanity is never settled by argument. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Let the various social systems compete with one another under conditions of peaceful coexistence, and the people can decide for themselves.
-- Quoted in Paul Robeson Speaks, p. 479
I feel closer to my country than ever. There is no longer a feeling of lonesome isolation. Instead--peace. I return without fearing prejudice that once bothered me . . . for I know that people practice cruel bigotry in their ignorance, not maliciously. . . .
I've learned that my people are not the only ones oppressed. . . . I have sung my songs all over the world and everywhere found that some common bond makes the people of all lands take to Negro songs as their own.
When I sang my American folk melodies in Budapest, Prague, Tiflis, Moscow, Oslo, or the Hebrides or on the Spanish front, the people understood and wept or rejoiced with the spirit of the songs. I found that where forces have been the same, whether people weave, build, pick cotton, or dig in the mine, they understand each other in the common language of work, suffering, and protest.
ROBESON: I stand here struggling for the rights of my people to be full citizens in this country and they are not. They are not in Mississippi and they are not . . . in Washington. . . . You want to shut up every Negro who has the courage to stand up and fight for the rights of his people. . . . That is why I am here today. . . .
MR. SCHERER: Why do you not stay in Russia?
MR. ROBESON: Because my father was a slave, and my people died to build this country and I am going to stay here and have a part of it just like you. And no fascist- minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear?
In a radio broadcast that I made from the Continent to a great London rally in defense of Spain, I explained my stand:
"Every artist, every scientist, must decide now where he stands. He has no alternative. There is no standing above the conflict on Olympian heights. There are no impartial observers. Through the destruction, in certain countries, of the greatest of man's literary heritage, through the propagation of false ideas of racial and national superiority, the artist, the scientist, the writer is challenged. The struggle invades the formerly cloistered halls of our universities and other seats of learning. The battlefront is everywhere. There is no sheltered rear."And I saw, too, that the struggle for Negro rights was an inseparable part of the anti-fascist struggle and I said:
"The artist must elect to fight for Freedom or for Slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative."
Hard-working people, and poor, most of them, in worldly goods--but how rich in compassion! How filled with the goodness of humanity and the spiritual steel forged by centuries of oppression! There was the honest joy of laughter in these homes, folk-wit and story, hearty appetites for life as for the nourishing greens and black-eyed peas and cornmeal bread they shared with me. Here in this little hemmed-in world where home must be theatre and concert hall and social center, there was a warmth of song. Songs of love and longing, songs of trials and triumphs, deep-flowing rivers and rollicking brooks, hymn-song and ragtime ballad, gospels and blues, and the healing comfort to be found in the illimitable sorrow of the spirituals.
Yes, I heard my people singing!--in the glow of parlor coal-stove and on summer porches sweet with lilac air, from choir loft and Sunday morning pews--and my soul was filled with their harmonies. Then, too, I heard these songs in the very sermons of my father, for in the Negro's speech there is much of the phrasing and rhythms of folk-song. The great, soaring gospels we love are merely sermons that are sung; and as we thrill to such gifted gospel singers as Mahalia Jackson, we hear the rhythmic eloquence of our preachers, so many of whom, like my father, are masters of poetic speech.
Chairman Walter, co-author of the racist Walter- McCarran Immigration Act which I shall describe in a later chapter, did not like what I was saying and he started banging his gavel for me to stop. But I wasn't quite finished and I went on to say:"I stand here struggling for the rights of my people to be full citizens in this country. They are not--in Mississippi. They are not--in Montgomery. That is why I am here today. . . . You want to shut up every colored person who wants to fight for the rights of his people!"Following that hearing, I was deeply moved and gratified by many comments in the Negro press which showed a sympathetic understanding of the position I took in Washington. Since not a line about Negro editorial opinion on this subject appeared in the white newspapers of this country, which never miss a chance to scandalize my name and to quote any Negro who can be induced to do so, let me here give excerpts from some of the Negro newspaper comments on my testimony: . . .
"Othello in the Venice of the time was in practically the same position as a coloured man in America today. "
"Robeson embodies the unrestrained and righteous rage that has broken bonds. His is the furious spirit wearied with tedious checker playing that stretches through nearly a hundred years in order to gain the fights guaranteed a hundred years ago.
"Robeson's cry is for justice, happiness and freedom here and now, while we live, not in some far away time in the future. His is the voice . . . that shouts down the promises of by-and-by and bellows 'No! Now!'
"A sensitive, tormented soul, he is that Other Self, the Alter Ego that a million Negroes try in self defense to disown. His protest is the authentic Protest of the Negro. . . . And when Paul Robeson says, 'I don't think a Negro will fight for an Eastland,' Robeson is right."