The Paul Robeson – Jackie Robinson Saga and a Political Collision Essay
20th Century U. S. History since WWII Spring 2013 Bergen Community College Prof. Burke THE PAUL ROBESON—JACKIE ROBINSON SAGA AND A POLITICAL COLLISION. By Ronald A. Smith, Journal of Sport History, Vol. 6, No. 2 (summer, 1979) P 5-27 Dr. Ronald A. Smith, a historian and Professor Emeritus at Penn State University analyzes Jackie Robinson’s appearance, and impact before the House Un-American Activities Committee in light of anti-American messages made by the entertainer and former Rutgers University All-American football superstar Paul Robeson.
Smith argues that for symbolical grounds, the federal government reached out to Jackie Robinson so he can assist in getting rid of Paul Robeson from his function as a black leader. Using a relative analysis of both Robinson and Robeson early lives, Author Ronald Smith affirms that they spearheaded change from different paths. Smith illustrates how Jackie Robinson was willing to cooperate with white society for the purpose of positive racial goals and Paul Robeson wanted improvement own his own terms, not necessarily those suggested by white society.
Nonetheless, Smith insists both Robinson and Robeson fought for equal rights in their respected ways. In this informative and well written essay, The Paul Robeson-Jackie Robinson Saga and Political Collision, Ronald A. Smith (following his Ph. D. at the University of Wisconsin, he spent 28 years at Penn State teaching sport history and researching intercollegiate athletics) illustrates how a collision arose between Robinson and Robeson, Significantly because of Robinson’s desegregation of baseball under white terms and Robeson’s stand for human rights under free political terms.
This essay takes us through a clashing journey of two outstanding and prominent African American men, who shared core values and beliefs of equality from a different ideology and spectrum. This essay is skillfully crafted and organized to assist us with understanding the time-line and its relation to the life of Paul Robeson and Jackie Robinson. The time-line takes us through the Jim Crow era, the crucial 1920’s and 1930’s, the impact of World War II, and the desegregation of baseball. Furthermore, Smith uses historical evidence to portray how the federal government skillfully orchestrated actics to set up one of the biggest showdown between two heroes before a committee. This was evident in the reading “At the time of HUAC hearings on communist infiltration of minority groups, Robinson was leading the National League in batting with a . 360 avg communist infiltration of minority groups, Robinson was also the top vote getter in the annual all-star balloting in his league. It was not unexpected that HUAC would ask a black of Robinson’s public exposure to testify against another prominent black. ” (P. 19).
Hence setting up a stage for a clash, and putting Robinson in an inedible dilemma, whereas if he refused to testify he risked being labeled a communist sympathizer, and if he testified the segregationist could use his statements to deny discrimination in America. Despite the fact that Smith attempts to be impartial in this essay, by laying down numerous acclamations, alongside trailblazing feat established by Robinson and Robeson; he does however seem to elaborate predominantly on the negative reputation and debunking of Robeson.
Although there’s overwhelming acclamations by the author towards both “performers”, it seems to me that in an essay of non-partisanship, there are hints of Smith leaning towards Robinson’s ideology. Smith writes “Robinson was more realistic and pragmatic, and he fared far better socially and financially than did Robeson” (P. 23), which makes me wonder, how does Robeson, a man that faced oppression, dead ends, and a system of limitations acquires an unrealistic and illogical label?.
Smith failed to mention that a peaceful mind exceeds social acceptance and financial freedom. Smith thoughtfully presented us with a flurry of no holds barred information in this essay, somehow exposing some more than others. Nonetheless, the gloves were off, whether he was talking about Robinson’s non-confrontational demeanor “Even if they don’t accept us, we are doing our part and, if possible, making the way easier for those who follow. Someday some Negro player will get a break. We want to help make that day a reality. (P. 15), Robeson’s loud hollering about injustice and support of Communist Russia during a fragile era, or the federal government flagrant tactics, Smith managed to exposed and relate all these characteristics in this essay. Although this essay was written in the summer of 1979, shortly after Robeson death and about 7 years after Robinson’s demise, they would’ve been charmed by Smith’s ability to associate being a prominent public figure and seizing the moment to voice their views. According to Smith, Robeson took advantage f his notoriety as an Actor/Singer and embrace Russian ideology while bashing America’s segregationist society, as stated “I would say in Russia I felt for the first time a full human being, and no colored prejudice like in Mississippi and no colored prejudice like in Washington and it was the first time I felt like a human being, where I did not feel the pressure of color as I feel in this committee today” (P. 11), this added extra pressure from the International community towards America.
In contrast, Smith exemplifies how Robinson aligned his notoriety tactically to break barriers “Robinson was more willing to compromise with white society for a time to accomplish positive racial goals and his own advancement” (P23). Either way you flip the coin is a win-win situation, whereas both voices were being heard. Furthermore, this essay relates to discussions held in class and it illustrates how African Americans were discriminated and treated less than human.
It gave me a better sense of how Russians views of African Americans were different than those of Americans. My perception of the Russians and beliefs about their communist beliefs completely changed after reading how different Robeson was treated, for the first time he felt like a human and not a color. I believed that if Americans were so cruel to their own, what was to expect from the rest of the world at that time.
Reading this essay contributed greatly to a better understanding on how society treated African Americans then and how much African Americans have accomplished now. In conclusion, this article is overwhelming; nonetheless, Smith manages to correlate the intangibles that both men share throughout the article by comparing and contrasting their lives. Furthermore, the article was successful with interpreting and deciphering the trials and tribulations both faced to reach a common belief despite their acknowledged differences.