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Paul Robeson and "The March of the Volunteers"
    2008-04-15 14:51:26     CRIENGLISH.com

File photo of Paul Robeson. [Photo: photobucket.com]

Born on April 9, 1898 in Princeton, NJ, Paul Robeson, the son of a runaway black slave, became a world-acclaimed artist. Throughout his life, he advocated freedom and equality among all mankind.


Singer, actor, scholar, athlete, social activist, philosopher, linguist, and lawyer.

If we could be one of these types of people, we would feel lucky to be blessed with talent. But Paul Robeson was all of these. The late concert singer and stage and film actor used his artistic achievement to spread the aspiration for freedom and equality everywhere in the world. And in China, the story of Paul Robeson goes deeper.

To Chinese people, late Paul Robeson is more than a Grammy-winning singer and a Hollywood star. He'd been a true friend of this nation during the turmoil of the WWII and offered his help against the Japanese aggression in the 1930s and 1940s. Chinese Honorary President Soong Ching Ling was also one of the admirers of Paul Robeson. 

Of course, everything started with his music.

Marni Rosner was one of the lucky people who had actually listened to his singing. Her family had a very deep relation with the artist.

"When I was five in 1957, my mother took me to hear Paul Robeson sing in a church in Philadelphia. That I remembered very well. I remember this absolutely enormous presence. He had a voice like a big bassoon. Your bones would vibrate because it was just a big voice. I've never heard anything like that."

Marni Rosner's mother Jean Rosner used to work for the Farm Security Administration of the United States, directly under Henry Wallace, who was the Vice President in Roosevelt administration. Robeson was one of Wallace's main supporters in his presidential campaign.

"So Paul Robeson came and sang. For my mother, it is one of her most profound experiences in her life, going with Paul Robeson in the morning and in the evening when the miners coming off shift, they would come exhausted out of coal mines, completed covered in coal slag, weary. Paul Robeson would be singing, greeting them with songs, and just rejuvenating them. No one used to come and sing to coal miners."

British and Canadian Michael Crook was the Vice-chair of the International Committee for the Promotion of Chinese Industrial Coorporatives. Born in China, the foreigner fluent in Beijing dialect recalls his memory of the great performing artist.

"I first learned the name Paul Robeson or perhaps I first recognized the picture of Paul Robeson when I was very young. We have a record, a LP. It had a big picture of Paul Robeson on it and also his name. But what I remember are all the wonderful songs he sang. My whole family love Paul Robeson's songs."

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