This video is a great example of the efforts of Paul Robeson. His idealistic and pragmatic persona were what made him a prominent figure in both the “Red Scare” blacklistings and The Civil Rights Movement. Robeson would have likely agreed with a more DuBois-esque approach to the integration of blacks into white society. As a performer, Robeson was given the opportunity to sing in the show Showboat where he played the role of a slave. He stole the show with his main song “Old Man River”. This song contrasts the weary and deterministic nature of slaves in the south and the passive nature of a river. Along with the metaphor of time with the river, it is also there to contrast the personality of a river, ever “rolling along”. The most important notation one should take from this video is the few lyrical changes from the original. “Niggers all work on the Mississippi” was changed to a derogatory “Darkies all work on the Mississippi”. And most importantly “The Old Man I’d like to be” became “The Old Man I don’t want to be”. This reflects Robeson’s personality because he was very assertive and progressive and never passive. Even during his blacklisted period he still gave concerts over the telephone to Canada.
Short URL for this post: http://tmblr.co/ZsGtxwAsXnoo