This Day in History

Aug. 16, 1955: Paul Robeson Lost Court Appeal

Time Periods: Cold War: 1945 - 1960
Themes: African American, Democracy & Citizenship, Laws & Citizen Rights, Racism & Racial Identity

On Aug. 16, 1955, Paul Robeson lost his court appeal to have the U.S. State Department grant him a passport. An internationally renowned singer, actor, and speaker, Robeson was denied the right by the U.S. government to international travel in 1950 because of his political beliefs.

Prior to that he had traveled extensively, as in this photo at the World Peace Conference in Paris on April 20, 1949 with W. E. B. Du Bois, shortly before the State Department ruling.

Paul Robeson | Zinn Education Project

Paul Robeson with W. E. B. Du Bois in Paris. Source: Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries, UMass. – Amherst.

Paul Robeson was one of the most important figures of the 20th century. He was a “renaissance man” — an acclaimed athlete, actor, singer, cultural scholar, author, lawyer, and internationally-renowned political activist.

Learn More

Documentary film, Paul Robeson: The Renaissance Man (PBS)

Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson by Barbara Ransby

See more resources below.