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1952 __ Telephone concert
Paul Robeson (Robinson) (1898-1976)
Comment : Prohibited from crossing border into Canada, where he has been invited to speak to convention of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers’ Union in Vancouver, BC, Paul Robeson speaks and sings to them by telephone from Marine Cooks & Stewards Hall in Seattle. Over next six years, Mine, Mill contributes much to Robeson’s struggle to regain his right to travel, insisting also that, as Canadians, they have the right to hear an international artist. To launch its protest, the Union organizes a Robeson concert and rally to be held on May 18 at Peace Arch Park, at the US-Canada border, in Blaine, Washington. By the late-1930's, Paul Robeson had become a world famous concert singer, stage and movie performer, and he was still under forty. Fascist forces had begun their march to World War II: Japanese troops had invaded China in 1931, Italian forces had overrun Ethiopia in 1935, and General Francisco Franco, with the aid of Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy, mobilized Spain's regular army to overthrow the legally-elected Republican government. [In 1937] "Save Spain" rallies were organized in London and Paul Robeson and his wife Eslanda Cardozo Goode, flew in to participate.The first rally was sponsored by such notables as W.H. Auden, Virginia Wolff and H.G. Wells as a benefit concert for the National Joint Committee for Spanish Refugees in Aid of the Basque Refugee Children’s Fund. Held at the Royal Albert Hall, London with 6,000 in attendance, the event was broadcast by radio throughout Europe and Robeson delivered a speech that night that would be among his most memorable and serve as his epitaph. "The artist must take sides. He must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.".On May 18, 1952, singer, actor, athlete, scholar, and political activist Paul Robeson (1898-1976) performs an outdoor concert for more than 25,000 people gathered on both sides of the United States/Canadian border at Peace Arch Park in Blaine. An outspoken supporter of civil rights worldwide and an admirer of the Soviet Union, where he perceives there to be no racism, Robeson has been increasingly persecuted for his political views since the late 1940s. His passport has been confiscated by the State Department, denying his right to travel and perform outside of the United States, and he has recently even been prevented from crossing the border to Canada, which at the time does not require United States citizens to show a passport. By the early 1950s Robeson was experiencing increasing difficulty booking concert venues in the United States. His performances were boycotted by many, and those fans who did buy tickets were harassed. In 1950 the State Department demanded that Robeson surrender his passport unless he signed an affidavit denying that he was a Communist. He refused. His passport was confiscated and he began a civil legal challenge against the State Department. Unable to travel outside of the United States to perform abroad, and selling ever-fewer tickets within the country, Robeson's earnings plunged. On January 31, 1952 Robeson and Vincent William Halliman, an attorney for labor leader Harry Bridges, were prevented from crossing the border into Canada. They had been en route (Robeson by car and Halliman by train) to address a meeting of the Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers Union in Vancouver, British Columbia. This prohibition went beyond the issue of Robeson's confiscated passport: At the time American citizens were not required to carry passports to cross the border into Canada. Paul Robeson addressed the meeting by telephone from Seattle, but the Mine, Mill, and Smelter Worker's Union began plans for a concert at Peace Arch Park on the international border so that members could hear the great baritone singer in person despite the fact that he was virtually being held prisoner within the United States. The Peace Arch had been erected by Samuel Hill (1857-1931) in 1921 to celebrate the long-running peace between Canada and the United States. Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers regional director Harvey Murphy chaired Paul Robeson's Peace Arch concert. (Compiled from various sources)
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