The festival started on Feb. 12 and our documentary "PAUL ROBESON: I’M A NEGRO, I'M AN AMERICAN” will close the festival on April 9—Paul Robeson’s birthday—with a hybrid (live and virtual) screening at Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, MA. The screening honors Paul Robeson (1898-1976) and 200 years of his Quaker Ancestors: the Bustill-Mapps-Douglass Family of Philadelphia.


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At the height of his fame and skill, Robeson’s career was cut short by Cold War anti-communist hysteria. This documentary includes historic footage of the US civil rights movement; clips of Robeson’s speeches, performances and visits to East Germany (GDR) and the Soviet Union; and interviews with his son, Paul Robeson Jr., and the musicians and activists Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger and Earl Robinson. Co-produced by the GDR’s DEFA Studio for Documentary Film and the West Berlin production company Chronos, with scenes shot in the U.S.


In the GDR, the American civil rights movement and Black activists were central to socialist solidarity in the international struggle for racial, gender and economic equality. The name of Paul Robeson, doubly admired because of his virtuosity as a singer and actor, was known to every East German. In recounting Robeson’s story, this documentary—now somewhat controversial—expresses admiration for the man and artist, while also making use of his role as a symbol.


The screening will be followed by a discussion between Joyce Mosley, researcher and descendent of the Bustill-Mapps-Douglass family; Dr. Mark Solomon, eminent historian and authority on African Americans and the Left and Dr. Harold D. Weaver, Robeson advocate-researcher for over 50 years.


The DEFA-Stiftung, our partner foundation in Berlin, is currently working on the digitization of the documentary. We plan to release a restored version of the film with revised English subtitles on DVD and educational streaming in 2023.

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