Monday, 20 October 2008

Paul Robeson Seminar Series

A new CREW initiative, in collaboration with the American Studies department, kicks off this week. The first Paul Robeson Seminar will take place at 1pm on Wednesday 22nd October, 2008 at the School of Humanities Conference Room, Basement, James Callaghan Building. Profesor Jon Roper will present a paper entitled 'Obama Who? Race and the race for the 'White(s) House'

The 'Robeson series' of lunchtime seminars on African American topics will consist of formal discussion papers and an informal reading group. It is our hope that these seminars will provide a fruitful forum for debate, creating a dynamic environment for research among staff, postgraduate and undergraduate students interested in the field of African American studies.

Why Paul Robeson?
Paul Robeson was one of the foremost African-Americans of the twentieth century. He was a world renowned singer and actor and a leading civil rights activist. Robeson’s connections with Wales are said to have begun in 1928, when he impulsively joined a group of marching Welsh miners singing in London’s West End. The next ten years saw him donating money to, and visiting, Talygarn Miners’ Rest Home, appearing in many concerts across Wales including an appearance at the Caernarvon Pavilion the night after an explosion had claimed 266 lives at the Gresford Pit near Wrecsam, and, most famously, a visit to Mountain Ash in 1938 for the ‘Welsh National Memorial Meeting to the Men of the International Brigade from Wales who gave their lives in defence of Democracy in Spain’. The 1930s also saw Robeson establishing connections with the multi-ethnic community in Cardiff’s Butetown, which was also home to the political activist and Pan-Africanist native of Philadelphia, and uncle by marriage to Robeson, Aaron Mosell. 1939 saw Robeson playing the role of David Goliath, an African American seaman who settles in a mining village, in one of the few movies which he did not later disown, Proud Valley. Hounded during the McCarthy era for his Communist sympathies, Robeson had his passport confiscated from 1950 to 1958. The persistent invitations made throughout the 1950s for Robeson to appear at the Miners’ Eisteddfod in Porthcawl, lead to the ‘Transatlantic Exchange’ of 1957 which allowed the Eisteddfod audience to hear Robeson’s voice via a telephonic link from New York. Following the return of his passport in 1958, he was introduced by Aneurin Bevan, and presented a Welsh Hymn Book by the leading Welsh modernist poet, T. H. Parry-Williams, at the National Eisteddfod in Ebbw Vale. In the October of that year he finally appeared in person at the Miners’ Eisteddfod in Porthcawl. His last significant contact with Wales occurred in 1960 when he appeared with the Cwmbach Choir at a Movement for Colonial Freedom concert in the Royal Festival Hall, London. In 2007 the Let Robeson Sing Exhibition was presented to Swansea University’s south Wales Miners’ Library.,18538,en.php,11474,en.php

Dr Rachel Farebrother, American Studies, Swansea University
Dr Daniel Williams, CREW, English Department, Swansea University

The Programme for 2008
Wednesdays 1-2pm in the James Callaghan Conference Room

Wednesday 22 October
Professor Jon Roper, American Studies, Swansea University
Obama who? Race and the race for the White(s) House

Wednesday 5 November
Dr. Daniel Williams, English, Swansea University
Paul Robeson, Jazz, and the Cold War

Wednesday 19 November
Reading Group: Poetry by Sterling A. Brown
Organiser: Dr Rachel Farebrother, American Studies, Swansea University

Wednesday 3 December
Wendy Hayes-Jones, Swansea Metropolitan University and PhD student in English at Swansea University. Race and Identity in the Essays of Ishmael Reed

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