Last night, I watched Saul Turell’s 1979 documentary, Paul Robeson, Tribute to an Artist. Narrated by Sidney Poitier, it’s an excellent half-hour look at the great singer’s life, framed by all the ways he changed the lyrics of “Old Man River” to fit where he saw himself and his politics at a given time. The entire thing is not available on YouTube, but there is a clip. It is available at The Criterion Channel, which is the greatest $10 a month you can spend.
By chance, I also recently read Barbara Ransby’s biography of Robeson’s wife, Eslanda. It’s quite good and I’d strongly recommend it. Of course, she’s largely forgotten about. And while anyone would live in Robeson’s shadow, she was a remarkable woman in her own right, also an amazing activist who traveled extensively in Africa. They had what was basically an open marriage, not because she was really sexually involved with others (or Ransby is unclear on this) but because he was going to cheat on her either way and this was her compromise position.