Karsh Signature

Yousuf Karsh, master photographer of the 20th century

Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson, 1941

The world lost an icon on this day, January 23, in 1978 when Paul Robeson, American bass baritone, stage and film actor, and political activist, died.

It came as a poignant irony to me that I photographed Paul Robeson the same year that I photographed Winston Churchill.* Churchill had a profound belief in his homeland and its values, while Robeson left the United States for Russia in a personal crisis of conscience… I invited this all-American athlete and gifted performer to be photographed after hearing his concert in Ottawa. His magnificent voice turned the theater into a cathedral. The next day, during our photographic session, he regaled me with spirituals of such surpassing beauty that I wanted to share them with my wife. Robeson was introduced to her over the telephone, and Solange had a private concert all her own.

*Robeson was photographed October 30, 1941. Churchill was photographed December 30, 1941.

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