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Last on

Wed 6 Jul 2011 22:00 BBC Radio 2

1 hour
First broadcast:
Wednesday 06 July 2011

"A first rate nuisance in the world peace campaign... slightly anti-British, he is a crank on the colour question." Words from security files about the American singer and civil rights campaigner, Paul Robeson, as they feared the effect his popularity may have on the European colonies.

Dotun Adebayo looks at back at the extraordinary talents of one of the greatest American recording stars of the early 20th century, Paul Robeson, at how both the FBI and MI5 colluded to try and crush both his career and social justice activism, and examines his extraordinary relationship with the miners of South Wales.

Robeson, the son of an escaped slave, became a forerunner of the civil rights movement and is credited by many - including his godson, singer-songwriter Eric Bibb, for laying the path for future activists such as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

This moving and powerful documentary includes archive of Paul Robeson's early performances, his recordings, his speeches and recounts a selection of extracts from the security files - his FBI file is said to be one of the most extensive of any entertainer ever investigated. The Robeson Files also examines Robeson's relationship with the miners of South Wales - whose plight he paralleled with slavery and looks at the years of espionage that resulted in the confiscation of his passport in 1950. This was a particular blow to the Welsh mining community who had invited Robeson to sing at the Miners' Eisteddfod. However, the 1957 Eisteddfod festival was to go down in history. Frustrated at the US and British governments' attempts to control his movements, Robeson addressed and sang to the miners in one of the first ever trans-Atlantic telephone link ups. A year later, Robeson's passport was returned.

Music Played

6 items
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    Maceo & The Macks Cross The Tracks (We Better Go Back)

    100% Pure Groove (Various Artists), Telstar

  • Image for Yarbrough & Peoples

    Yarbrough & Peoples Don't Stop The Music

    The Two Of Us, BBR, 011

  • Image for Wyclef Jean
  • Image for Donny Hathaway

    Donny Hathaway You've Got A Friend

  • Image for Kanye West & Adam Levine

    Kanye West & Adam Levine Kanye West & Adam Levine - Heard 'Em Say

    Heard 'Em Say, Roc-A-Fella

  • Image for Quincy Jones

    Quincy Jones I'm Gonna Miss You In The Morning


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