The 100th anniversary of the birth of the African-American actor, singer and political activist Paul Robeson is being celebrated Feb. 8 in Philadelphia -- the city where the versatile performer spent his final years.
The celebration, part of Black History Month, includes music and dramatic excerpts by, among others, Thelma Shelton Robinson, Mogauwane Mahloele and the Joy Unlimited Youth Mass Choir.
Robeson first burst onto the theatrical stage in 1924 in O'Neill's All God's Chillun Got Wings at the Provincetown Players theatre. He went on to star in O'Neill's The Emperor Jones and The Hairy Ape and also gained fame for his 1943 Othello on Broadway. He became closely identified with the Kern-Hammerstein song "Old Man River," which he first sang in the 1928 London production of Show Boat.
In later years Robeson was criticized for visiting the Soviet Union as an avowed Communist in 1963. Robeson died in 1976; two years later James Earl Jones appeared on Broadway in a one-man show about the actor's life.
For tickets to "Philadelphia Celebrates Robeson," to be held at the International House at 37th and Chestnut Sts., call (215) 569-9700. -- By Rebecca Paller