CULTURE AND RESISTANCE: THE LEGACY OF PAUL ROBESON

Paul Robeson increasingly discovered that human cultures are not solely, or necessarily only the product of nations. He sought out the inevitable class and civilizational foundations of national cultures. Robeson was drawn, therefore, to folk culture as the common underpinning of world civilization. Folk culture was for him the necessary material foundation of so-called high culture or “classical” culture, which almost inevitably had been appropriated by  ruling classes. Robeson believed, moreover, that for humanity to realize its true potential and occasion a renaissance of world civilization, the scourges of racism,colonialism and imperialism had to be eliminated from human history. The logic of this understanding drew him inevitably to the struggle for human emancipation, against capitalism itself . Having grasped the fundamental essence and global dimensions of oppression he never retreated from the struggle against it. He remained an internationalist and radical Pan Africanist most his life.For Robeson it was not enough merely to interpret the world, he dedicated his life to its revolutionary transformation. In February of 1999 the Public Broadcasting System aired a major documentary on the life and work of Robeson. It presented Robeson and especially his wife and comrade in arms Eslanda Goode Robeson in a manner seldom seen during the height of the Cold War. Few if any have connected culture and people’s folk cultures, to the struggles for freedom in the ways that Robeson had. He spoke almost 25 languages and celebrated humanity through its languages, songs, religions, art, drama, dance, philosophy and resistance. As the globe erupts in struggle against neo-liberal capitalism the legacy of culture as a weapon of resistance that was exemplified by Paul Robeson is highly important to uniting the people and inspiring them to fight. As the prophetic artist Curtis Mayfield once put it , “The people must prove to the people a better day is coming”. Their culture is one way they do that.

About Anthony Monteiro

I am a activist and scholar who is a professor in the Department of African American Studies at Temple University.
This entry was posted in Black Intellectual, Black Intellectual, Political and Ideological Issues, Political and Ideological Issues, US capitalism, empire and race. Bookmark the permalink.

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