Paul Robeson, African-American Artist, and the McCarthy Era

Author: Carole Chernecky

School/Organization:

Paul Robeson High School

Year: 2007

Seminar: Art and the Life of the City

Grade Level: 10

Keywords: African American, American Literature, Art, artist, Drama, Elgnish, Identity, Paul Robeson, social justice, social studies

School Subject(s): Activism, African American History, African American Literature, Arts, English, Literature, Social Studies

“Your hymn is like a burning torch of freedom, leading your people and my people and all people to a better day, that better world, that better time.”

—For Paul Robeson by Richard Davidson

This curriculum unit, “Paul Robeson, African-American Artist, and the McCarthy Era” is intended to be a moveable unit, applicable in either the freshmen or sophomore English course. It may also be used in the American Literature course. The School District of Philadelphia uses a thematic approach in its curriculum, with “identity” the theme for the freshmen English course. Along these lines, the students will meet the man, Paul Robeson. The legend will come to life. Hopefully, they will identify with his struggles and the struggles of others like him.

In the sophomore course, the theme is social justice; if used at that level, the unit will have students will explore Robeson the social activist who fought for the liberation of all people. They will march with him as he defends the oppressed. The melodious voice of Marian Anderson and the thunderous voice of Robeson will echo in their minds as they hear the two artists speak for South African famine relief in the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York.

This curriculum is based in English I and English II; however, it has the potential to be shared with other areas in the English Curriculum, particularly drama and art.

Additionally, it has the potential to be team-taught with the Social Studies department. The fundamental question the unit will attempt to answer is: “What effect did the McCarthy Era have on American artists such as Paul Robeson and many others?” Students will investigate and ultimately evaluate the impact such pressure had on the artistic endeavors of artists, particularly African American artists.

The intent of this curriculum unit is to enhance without sacrificing the direction of the core curriculum. For each course, the unit will be used during the appropriate time frame for the various themes. In the freshman English course this unit will be incorporated into the segment entitled “Literary Criticism: Biographical and Historical Approach.” The sophomore English course will integrate the unit in the “Narrator and Voice” collection of literature in the textbook.

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Full Unit Text
Overview

“Your hymn is like a burning torch of freedom, leading your people and my people and all people to a better day, that better world, that better time.” —For Paul Robeson by Richard Davidson

This curriculum unit, “Paul Robeson, African-American Artist, and the McCarthy Era” is intended to be a moveable unit, applicable in either the freshmen or sophomore English course. It may also be used in the American Literature course. The School District of Philadelphia uses a thematic approach in its curriculum, with “identity” the theme for the freshmen English course. Along these lines, the students will meet the man, Paul Robeson. The legend will come to life. Hopefully, they will identify with his struggles and the struggles of others like him.

In the sophomore course, the theme is social justice; if used at that level, the unit will have students will explore Robeson the social activist who fought for the liberation of all people. They will march with him as he defends the oppressed. The melodious voice of Marian Anderson and the thunderous voice of Robeson will echo in their minds as they hear the two artists speak for South African famine relief in the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York.

This curriculum is based in English I and English II; however, it has the potential to be shared with other areas in the English Curriculum, particularly drama and art. Additionally, it has the potential to be team-taught with the Social Studies department. The fundamental question the unit will attempt to answer is: “What effect did the McCarthy Era have on American artists such as Paul Robeson and many others?” Students will investigate and ultimately evaluate the impact such pressure had on the artistic endeavors of artists, particularly African American artists.

The intent of this curriculum unit is to enhance without sacrificing the direction of the core curriculum. For each course, the unit will be used during the appropriate time frame for the various themes. In the freshman English course this unit will be incorporated into the segment entitled “Literary Criticism: Biographical and Historical Approach.” The sophomore English course will integrate the unit in the “Narrator and Voice” collection of literature in the textbook.

Rationale

I teach in an urban high school named after Paul Robeson. Prior to being assigned to this school, I did not know what contributions Paul Robeson made to society; in fact, I had barely heard of the man. Upon visiting the school for the first time, I saw his photograph prominently displayed in the lobby and I made it my mission to find out who this person was and why a school was named after him

After much investigation, I have concluded that it was important for all students to know this multi-talented, trailblazing American-American—not just those in a school named after him. There is much to be learned from his struggle to follow his conscience at all costs and to be true to himself and his people.

In line with the freshman core curriculum focusing on identity, this unit will explore the rise and fall of a man who was a giant in all aspects of his life. The students come from neighborhoods in Philadelphia that statistically are high crime areas. At times it appears that their loyalties are misplaced. Their heroes, if they have any, are not people considered to be positive role models. Paul Robeson was statuesque physically, but even more so, a man with high aspirations for himself, for African-Americans and for America overall. Investigating the life of Paul Robeson will hopefully assist students in exploring who they are, what they want out of life and how they might achieve their goals.

If this unit is used in the sophomore course, with an emphasis on social justice, we will explore Robeson’s commitment to social justice not just for African-Americans, but for all oppressed peoples. Attention will be given to the career risks American artists, especially African American artists took when they made public their political ideology during the McCarthy era. America in the 1940’s and 1950’s was obsessed with the threat of communism. History documents that a senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy, commenced a crusade and accused many Americans of being “card carrying” communists. Although unfounded, these accusations initiated a witch hunt that professed to see communists penetrating all aspects of American life. Robeson was caught in this McCarthy-era web of suspicion.

Between 1920 and into the 1950’s, Paul Robeson was considered one of the most notable African-American performing artists. However, when he became a political and social activist, joining in the class struggle of his people, his career plummeted rapidly.

Historical Background

Paul Robeson was born in 1898 in Ewing Township, New Jersey. His father, William Drew Robeson, was a former slave who became a Presbyterian minister. His mother, Maria Louisa Bustill, came from a distinguished Philadelphia family of free Black abolitionists. Robeson was raised in Princeton, New Jersey. Upon hearing that he was born in Princeton, one would expect that his environment was privileged and that he would certainly have experienced very little prejudice. This certainly was not true. Paul Robeson grew up in a period where there was a great deal of racism in the north and the south. In the north, racism appeared more covertly. Princeton provided better housing than other towns, but racism was evident in every other aspect. Robeson could not get an education in Princeton; he received his education in neighboring Somerville, New Jersey.

Because his father was a minister, Robeson and his four siblings were brought up around the church. It is said that his father was a strong disciplinarian, who instilled in his children the “value of honor and pride in one’s people, and loyalty to one’s convictions as well as a lifelong love of scholarship, a duty to challenge injustice and the core belief that his children were as good as any white person (Chambers 2).” Robeson was the youngest of the five children. Unfortunately, his mother died in a household accident shortly before his sixth birthday. Paul graduated from Somerville High School in Somerville, New Jersey where he excelled in academics and sports. He did not limit his extra-curricular activities to sports, however, but participated in the drama and glee clubs as well. Robeson’s upbringing was a dichotomy between being looked down upon by the White population because he was Black, yet undeniably visible because of his tall stature and academic and athletic talent.

Rutgers University granted a four year scholarship to Robeson. Paul was only the third Black to attend Rutgers. He did not disappoint the university; he was a tremendous athlete and scholar, earning twelve letters in various sports and graduating as class valedictorian. He was the first Black to play on its football team (Chambers 2). Paul Robeson was considered to be one of the greatest college football players of all time (Freedom Ways 4). Walter Camp, said to be the most rigorous of team selectors, named Robeson as first American end for two years—1917 and 1918. (Freedom Ways 4). Despite all the football accolades given to Robeson, he was never appointed to the Football Hall of Fame. Ironically, the Football Hall of Fame is located at Rutgers University and Robeson was Rutgers’ first player to have won all-American honors. Rutgers, however, did not break down any racial barriers. Acknowledgment of this achievement was blatantly ignored, even in books recording such statistics as late as the 1950’s.
Emphasis has been placed on Robeson’s athletic prowess at Rutgers; however, he participated in much more. Robeson was elected to membership in Phi Beta Kappa, the national fraternity of scholars (Stewart 44). He was a member of the prestigious Cap and Skull Honor Society (www. archives.gov)—a senior honor society in which admittance is contingent upon excellence in academic, athletics, the arts, leadership and character. Each year, only eighteen Rutgers students are nominated to apply to Cap and Skull. He was also a member of Rutgers’s literary society, the Philoclean. Robeson won the Edward Livingston Barbour Prize in Declamation and the Myron W. Smith Memorial Prize in Oratory (Stewart 44). Indubitably, Paul Robeson was an outstanding graduate of Rutgers in his day and probably one of the most distinguished alumni in any time period. It is interesting to note that Rutgers now has three buildings named in Robeson’s honor.
Immediately upon graduating from Rutgers, Robeson attended law school at Columbia University. His athletic prowess served him well. He served as part-time football coach at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania for a year to earn money for tuition at Columbia University Law School. It was at Lincoln that he became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first all Black Fraternity in the country. He also played professional football for the National Football League. It should be noted that in 1934, Blacks were banned from playing in the league. He played for various other professional leagues on weekends to pay for law school. He graduated from Columbia and pursued a career in law, practicing in New Jersey. His law career was short lived. It is reported that while working in a law firm, a secretary refused to take dictation from “him or from any nigger.” When Robeson took this matter to the partners in the law firm, they did not support him. In essence, he was told that he would never represent a White man in a legal matter. Robeson without hesitation left the legal career. In fact, he was without a career—without any employment. While pursuing his law degree at Columbia, he dabbled in acting to support himself, and he decided to turn his career efforts to acting (Chambers 1).

Paul Robeson found his niche in performing, specifically in singing. He is said to have had one of the finest, if not the finest, bass-baritone voices. It was mentioned that his life centered on his church community, and this proved to benefit him in his career. His singing career commenced in 1925 in New York. The occasion of his debut was historic because it was the first concert in which solely Negro music–spirituals to be specific–were performed. A music critic wrote that his voice was difficult to describe. He said that Robeson’s voice “is a voice in which deep bells ring” (Freedomways, 5). Paul Robeson was a pioneer in bringing the old Spirituals to the stage. Audiences clamored for his old spirituals and they brought him much acclaim. Undoubtedly, it was on stage that Robeson soared. There were no limitations placed on his talent. He proclaimed that “on stage there was only the sky to hold me back” (Duberman 55).

Robeson’s career soared. He performed for all audiences with a self-confidence that only a great artist could exhibit. It should be noted that Robeson did encounter
racism in his rise to fame—at least in the United States. But his concert career spanned across the globe: Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Moscow, and Nairobi (www.archives.gov). He loved visiting other countries, especially Russia, where he was not judged by his color, but for his talent. Robeson’s recordings were released in the United States and England. He developed a professional relationship with another African-American, Lawrence Brown, who was a pianist and an arranger. This relationship led to Robeson’s first recording. Robeson’s music was recorded by other famous Black artists, most eminently Marian Anderson. Robeson was known for his combination of spirituals and work songs. He also dabbled in the Blues and made a recording with Count Basie. However, both Count Basie and Robeson concurred that it was not the kind of music he could perform convincingly. Thus, his connection to the blues and jazz was limited to admiring the greats such as Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.

Paul Robeson’s acting successes are too numerous to mention. However, it is essential to extol his performances in Show Boat. Paul Robeson’s name is synonymous with “Ol’ Man River.” This song brought him much acclaim and success in the United States and Europe. He was considered a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance (Chambers, 9). Robeson was proud of his achievement during the period and built upon it. However, the success was not without criticism. His critics claimed that he was performing a part that reverberated the very stereotyping of Blacks that he protested. Furthermore, he attracted a large white audience, which drew sharp criticism from African-Americans. In spite of these detractors, he was indeed one of the top performing artists in his time. He achieved career and the resultant financial success that surpassed that of many White artists at the time. By no means did Robeson consider financial gain to be a measurement of success. However, he was cognizant of the fact that he was admired by other Blacks for his success. He wanted others to know that he overcame many roadblocks to achieve success and that others could do the same.

Paul Robeson’s career seemed unstoppable. He went from singing in small theatres, to the stage performing in musicals to becoming a Shakespearean actor in Othello. The famous playwright Eugene O’Neill lauded Robeson’s performance as Brutus Jones in The Emperor Jones. It just seemed a natural transition for Robeson to appear in Hollywood films. From 1932 to 1939 he was the star in eight major movies in the United States and England (Freedomways 7). However, at the peak of his film career, Robeson left the film industry and denounced Hollywood. He said:

“I thought I could do something for the Negro race in films—show the truth about them and other people too. The industry is not prepared to permit me to portray the life of the struggling people from whom I come. You bet they will never let me play a part in a film in which a Negro is on top” (Freedomways 7).

Robeson was an athlete, lawyer, singer, stage performer, film actor and much more. But perhaps more than any of these terms, he would describe himself using the word “social activist.” He was accepted world-wide in the 1920’s and 30’s; however, it was after World War II that his life took a dramatic turn. The late 1940’s and 50’s, the reactionary period referred to as the McCarthy Era, left Robeson wide open for attack. The McCarthy Era affected the most inconspicuous citizen. Legal due process was virtually non-existent. It is said that forty days prior to his retirement, a fire department officer was denied retirement benefits when he was accused wrongfully of being a communist. (www.pbs.org). A group of Native Americans living on reservations were denied aid during an exceptionally brutal winter—all because of their unconventional style of living, considered to be “communistic” by some. Certainly, if citizens who were not overtly criticizing the United States during the McCarthy era found themselves in McCarthy’s sites, how much more so those who were openly critical. And it was no secret that Robeson was critical of United States policies, especially with regard to civil rights. He had lived in Russian for many years, primarily because he felt he was accepted by the U.S.S.R. His blackness did not limit him there in the way it did in the United States.

In 1956 Robeson was accused of being a Communist and he appeared before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). He was one of the few AfricanAmerican artists to appear before the HUAC. When asked why he did not stay in Russia, his response was “because my father was a slave, and my people died to build this country and I am going to stay here and have a part of it just like you….and no fascist minded people will drive me from it” (Robeson, 15). Without an organization behind him, Robeson single-handedly and passionately took on the U. S. government, criticizing U.S. policy, especially concerning racism. The media had a field day with him. His passport had already been revoked in 1950. He was placed under house arrest. He was not permitted to travel abroad to perform. A writer and friend of Robeson, Lloyd Brown, stated, “Paul Robeson was the most persecuted, the most ostracized, the most condemned black man in American, then or ever” (www.pbs.org). He was denied access to the media and especially television, which was quickly changing how America communicates. Television would have provided Robeson with world-wide publicity. This denial screamed of racial and political persecution (Stewart 63), yet it did not move him. As mentioned above, Paul Robeson was greatly influenced by his father. He was taught and lived his deep conviction that he was responsible for others, especially, AfricanAmericans who were oppressed. He lived this conviction relentlessly.

During this tense period of McCarthyism, anyone who was willing to speak up against the U.S. Policies was blacklisted. There were many artists who were placed on the Hollywood “Blacklist.” Lucille Ball, Charlie Chaplin, Lena Horn, Sam Jaffe, Zero Mostel and the famous journalist, Edward R. Murrow were all called to testify before the HUAC; however, it appears that few suffered the private and public consequences felt by Paul Robeson. Lena Horne, the popular African-American vocalist and performer par
excellence, was also victimized by the McCarthy paranoia (not surprisingly she was a friend of Paul Robeson). Even though Ms. Horne was blacklisted she was able to recover, albeit after seven years. There is no doubt that Robeson was penalized for being Black and labeled a Communist—a double stigma during this time period. The public gave Robeson no mercy. Some of the labor unions he had supported prior to the Cold War declared a personal cold war on him. In 1949, when he gave a speech in Peekskill, New York, thousands of blue collar workers threw rocks at him, shouted racial slurs and burned his records and musical scores in supposed protest against his communism. Those who supported Robeson’s efforts were pressured to withdraw support or suffer financial ruin. Yet Robeson was undaunted in his efforts to make democracy the true vision of America. His dream was to make democracy a reality for all people, especially the oppressed—no matter what color they were.

Robeson’s passport was ultimately returned in 1958. For a short time he was able to do what he was best at—performing. However, ill health forced him to leave the stage. For all intents and purposes, he faded from the public view. After his wife, Eslanda “Essie” Goode died, he lived in New York with his son. Later his sister, Marian Forsythe, who was very devoted to Mr. Robeson, invited him to live with her in West Philadelphia where he spent the remaining nine years of his life. He died on January 23, 1976 at Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia.

Paul Robeson was a giant of man in every aspect of his life. It is amazing that he did not allow the racism that was ever-present and the injustice of the McCarthy era to affect his determination, nor did he let his career ambitions interfere with his quest for equality. He kept up his crusade until illness forced him to curtail his activities. His legacy lives on both covertly and overtly. The term “Renaissance Man” has become a cliché; however, Paul Robeson was truly a “Renaissance Man.” It would be edifying for all, both young and old to encounter him in the myriad of books, music, speeches, etc. that have been written either by him or about him.

Objectives

The objectives for this unit will cover the standards for reading, writing, speaking and listening. The unit will emphasize critical thinking skills. It will also illustrate responsible citizenship. Above all, it will instill an appreciation for lifelong learning, something that Paul Robeson exemplified.

The unit will help students develop analytical skills through research. The students will examine the life of Paul Robeson by researching his education, achievements, career, and the obstacles he faced. They will experience his struggle to overcome racism and accusations of being a communist. Students will identify and evaluate conflicts in the United States during the 1940’s and 50’s, specifically, McCarthyism and its impact upon
artists. In addition, students will use a variety of technology sources to enhance the learning process and to encourage creativity. They will locate, evaluate and collect information to use in their research (www.iste.org).

Students will sharpen critical thinking skills by formulating important questions that expose the problems Robeson faced. They will explore the issues of the McCarthy era by evaluating informational texts (i.e. essays, nonfiction, and electronic texts). They will analyze information used in electronic texts, specifically web pages. They will also learn to assess the reliability and accuracy of the websites they are using.

By exploring the complex life of Paul Robeson, students will sharpen their ability to formulate an argument. They will analyze facts, events and the opposing opinions Americans had during the McCarthy era. They will write to persuade others by using arguments either for or against Robeson’s social activism. They will also write to compare and contrast how others reacted to the McCarthy era. They will support their arguments by using examples from Robeson’s life.

Strategies

This unit will take three weeks to complete. It is designed to be integrated into the segment of a course in which research is introduced and developed. This unit will provide an introductory lesson on the internet and its role in research. Students will be given specific directions how to do research on the internet.

The instructor will use a documentary DVD to give the students a general introduction to Robeson’s life. After viewing the Paul Robeson documentary, the class will brainstorm in groups about what they know of Paul Robeson’s life. They will also develop questions for use in a Paul Robeson Jeopardy game. A processing graphic organizing chart, KWLS (what I know, what I want to learn, what I still want to learn), will record the results of the brainstorming session. They will section off their notebook for reporter’s notes. Students will answer the questions, “Who?” “What?” “When?” “How?” and “Why?” Keeping a journal will be an essential tool in this unit. This will encourage students to keep on top of their research and it will encourage them to write on a daily basis. It will provide them with a forum to voice their ideas. For students who are uncomfortable voicing their opinions among their peers or their teachers, the journal will help them to keep a record of their thinking and speak more honestly. They will also “surf the net” to answer questions about Paul Robeson (Appendix B) which will lead them to McCarthyism. Students will be required to do an I-Search. An I-Search is a research project in which students must be active participants in the writing process, thus the use of the pronoun “I” (www.literacymatters.org). A WebQuest, a project- and problem-based learning experience, follows the I-Search. This project differs from the I-search, however, in that it
is team-based.

At the conclusion of this unit, the students will visit the Paul Robeson Museum in West Philadelphia. The museum is located in the house where Robeson spent the last few years of his life. The intent is also to have students who live in the vicinity volunteer their services to the museum.

Classroom Activities

During this unit, students will:
• Learn about an important African-American Artist, Paul Robeson, by researching his life and sharing research with peers
• Develop research and inquiry skills by researching Robeson’s life, examining the impact of culture on his life, and evaluating biographical material for deletions, bias or embellishment.
• Improve their communication skills by presenting on Robeson or another artist whose life was impacted by the McCarthy era; by listening to other student’s presentations; and by working collaboratively in groups.
• Enhance their use of technology by using the Internet to research an artist or a famous person affected by the McCarthy era, and posting a written report of their findings. Students will also do a WebQuest to improve their critical reading skills by evaluating websites and resource materials for accuracy and selecting information to include in their presentations
• Improve their writing skills by researching an American artist whose life was directly impact by the McCarthy era, writing a brief report, and peer editing and revising their work
Lesson One—Internet Preparation
Time: one class period
A presentation on internet safety will be given. A mini-lesson on evaluating web sites for safety and validity will also be given. Students will be given samples of web sites for research purposes. They will use the student-based search engine www.answers.com. This search engines attempts to provide accuracy as well as internet safety. Researching techniques will be reviewed.

Materials: Computer lab

Lesson Two

Time: three class periods

Materials: DVD – Paul Robeson, Portrait of the Artist Notebooks, Sectioned for journal and note taking KWLS Form Blank Timeline

1. Students will view the portions of documentary, Paul Robeson, Portrait of the Artist. This will take several class periods. They will have the KWLS chart. They will takenotesduring the documentary, answering the questions: who, what, when, where and why.

2. Students will surf the net for information on background material on the McCarthy Era, Paul Robeson and other African-Americans affected by this period. A vocabulary log will be kept as well as an Evaluation Nonfiction Checklist.

3. Students will complete KWLS Chart and they will answer questions on Paul Robeson, African-American Artist, and the McCarthy Era. They will develop questions for a future Jeopardy Game on Paul Robeson’s Life. In groups they will complete the timeline of Paul Robeson’s life.

4. Students will be given a review of making effective and efficient notes. They will be given a class period to explore their topics on the internet.

5. The biography discussion questions and I-Search Form will be completed.

Biography Discussions Questions- Paul Robeson and the McCarthy Era

Part I. – People and social situations that influenced Paul Robeson

1. How was Paul Robeson influenced by the time in which he lived and its beliefs and social structure?

2. How did Robeson’s life/work change or influence others, both during his time and now.

3. How did his personal beliefs, family and friends help him to become the person he was?

4. How did he learn what he needed to know?

5. Why is Paul Robeson famous?

Part II — the time and place in which Paul Robeson lived

6. Birth and death dates?

7. Where did he live?

8. What others things were happening in the U.S. during the time he lived? Did these have any influence on him?

9. What things were happening politically in our country? Did Robeson fit in to the political climate of the day or was he opposed to it?

10. Were there any crises in the U. S. or the world?

11. Could Paul Robeson have done the same thing(s) in a different time period? Why or Why not?

I-Search Projects

1. Choose a question that has been explored in class (see below for suggestions).

2. Have your question approved by your teacher

3. Develop an answer to the question

4. Support your answer researched evidence

5. Complete a KWLW chart to organize your ideas

I-Search Questions

Fill in the name of the person you are researching and answer the following questions.

Person: ________________________________________________

1. Did this person become a role model for others? If so, how?

2. What was this person’s major accomplishment?

3. Did this person do anything heroic?

4. How did this person become famous?

5. What character traits do you admire most in this person?

6. What did you learn from this person’s life?

7. Are there ways you can connect your experiences with this person’s experiences?

8. What kind of impact did this person have on the lives of others?

9. Did this person do anything in his or her life that you hope to do someday?

Suggested topics:

• Paul Robeson, Artist • Paul Robeson, Athlete • McCarthy Era and Paul Robeson • The Black List • Lena Horne • Jackie Robinson • Paul Robeson in Philadelphia • The list can go on and on. . . do your investigation.

Required parts of the assignment

The final paper must be in MLA format, typed, double spaced, and 12-point font (Times New Roman).

1. General Format a. Include a heading b. Number the pages in the upper right hand corner with your name, and page number

2. What I know: a. Brainstorm after viewing documentary to form a list of potential I-search topics. b. Choose a question that interests you.
c. Write a one- to two-paragraph paper explaining what you think is the answer to your question. Completing the KWLW form will help you. This must be done before you start your research.

3. What I want to find out: a. Write one or two paragraphs of questions about your topic. b. These questions will be the basis for your research. c. Narrow your topic and develop a list of key terms to research. It is important to narrow your topic or your I-search will be difficult to complete.

4. The search: a. Use at least five different sources to research your topic. b. You will be using the internet for research. c. Include all of the information that you’ve learned from each source in paragraph format. You will probably have more than one paragraph of information for each source. d. Cite all sources.

5. What I learned: Write one or two paragraphs that answer your question based on the evidence that you listed in section 3, the search.

6. Works Cited: Create a list of your sources based on MLA format.

Assessment

Students are assessed on the appropriate completion of the sequence of steps, materials and resources obtained, their major findings, and significance of the information.

Lesson Three

WebQuest: The Renaissance man, Paul Robeson Materials: Previous research Computer lab with PowerPoint Poster board Overview

This lesson explores the life of the artist, the intellectual, the activist, the linguist, the painter–the Renaissance Man–Paul Robeson, his triumphs and his defeats, his trials and his tribulations, his never ending search for justice and equality for all people.

The specific content area is high school English. Students will develop reading, writing, speaking and research skills. This project is interdisciplinary in nature, and thus students will develop skills used in history and technology.

Resources that teachers will to complete this project include use of a media center equipped with computers, video and audio materials. The documentaries, Paul Robeson, Portrait of the Artist, or Speak of Me as I Am: The Life and Times of Paul Robeson are also used.

Introduction

Paul Robeson played an important role in American theater and in American history. In this scenario, you will work in teams to plan the completion of the Paul Robeson Museum. You will design the museum: the layout, the interior design, and the contents of the museum. This will include:

• An audio-visual station giving the life of Paul Robeson, similar to the lives of the presidents presented at the Constitutional Center

• State-of-the art stereo systems with Paul Robeson recordings

• Prints of Paul Robeson’s artwork

• Recordings of interviews with people who knew Robeson

• Fundraising

• Recruitment of volunteers for the museum

The Task

Ms. Olivia Wanamaker, a friend of Paul Robeson, wants to see the fruition of her dream to have the Paul Robeson Museum completed. She is elderly and knows that she will not live forever; therefore, time is of the essence. However, there are to be no shortcuts. The museum has an endowment and funds have been raised through the generosity of many of Paul Robeson’s friends and admirers.

Each team will consist of four members. You will have an architect, an interior designer, a historian and a financial manager. Your team is to present a proposal to create
a dignified, state-of-the art museum to honor Mr. Robeson’s memory. If your team’s proposal is accepted, then you will be responsible to see it to completion.

The Process

You have completed all the research for the plan that you will present to Ms. Wanamaker and the Board of the Museum. You must decide the details of the presentation. Each group will meet to share information. Each team member will have a written report that you will present to each group member. The group must reach a consensus before the presentation. The order of the presentation is not important. The major factor is that each team member has an equal role. The presentation must be a team effort. You may use a PowerPoint presentation or a presentation in which each of you presents your segment. You may have photos, charts, music, etc. that will enhance your presentation. The important part is to practice the presentation beforehand.

Evaluation

Each person in the team must play an equal role. This is important, since no one is exempt from participation. The team will receive a grade and each individual will be graded. The team will evaluate each member for the group work. The written report will be graded by the teacher. The presentation will be graded by the teacher and the other teams.

Conclusion

What have you learned about Paul Robeson? What will the museum add to Philadelphia’s cultural programs? What have you learned about working as a team? Would you rather work as a team or individually? Lessons for Differentiated Learners.- These students will do an I-Search as well

1. Students will be presented with all the internet tutorials. They will be directed to http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/robeson_p.html. A sheet with the narrative will contain blanks. The student will read the narrative on the internet and then fill in the missing words

2. After researching Robeson’s life, students will do a bio cube. This is a project for students who may not be able to do a full research project. After reading or writing a biography, students visit this website: http://readwritethink.org/materials/bio_cube. They simply fill in information on the Bio-Cube Planning Sheet and print. The finished product is folded into a cube for presentation or display.

3. Students will create a collage on Paul Robeson’s life in words and/or graphics.

4. In groups, students will write letters to publishers questioning why Paul Robeson is not included in their Black History textbook.

Annotated Resources

Bell, Charlotte Turner, Paul Robeson’s Last Days in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania: Dorrance & Company, Inc., 1986. A heartwarming book by a local author, who had the privilege of being Robeson’s accompanist for the last six years of his life.

Burke, Jim, Tools for Thought: Graphic Organizers for your Classroom. New Hampshire: Heinemann, 2002. Teaching tool for lesson planning and get the student’s creative juices flowing.

Chambers, Colin, Here We Stand: Robeson, Duncan, Chaplin. London: Nick Hern Books, 2006. Probably the most recent book out on Robeson. Presents a different slant on his choices, not always positive

Doherty, Thomas, Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarthyism, and American Culture. York: Columbia University Press, 2003. This book provides insight into how the McCarthy era affected television and film star.

Dorinson, Joseph, and Pencak, William, eds. Paul Robeson: Essays on His Life and Legacy. North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2002. One of the more recent books on Paul Robeson. The essays provide variety essays from various points of view.

Foner, Philip, S., ed. Paul Robeson Speaks New York: Brunner/Mazel Publishers, 1978. This book provides readers with speeches given by Robeson himself.

Ledbetter, Mary Ellen, Writing Portfolio Activities Kit. New York: The Center for Applied Research in Education, 1998. A good resource for providing differential learning activities.

Pathway Publishers. Graphic Organizers for Read, Writing and Thinking. Massachusetts: Pathways Publishing, Inc., 2003. This teaching resource provides graphic organizers for the areas specified in the title.

Stewart, Jeffrey, ed. Paul Robeson Artist and Citizen. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1998. A book that provides biographical information as well as photographs

Answers.com. 5 May 2007 <http:// www. answers.com> This is a wonderful website. It is a search engine for students. It is considered safe and reliable. It is also a good resource for teachers. They have a period newsletter for teachers. Biography.com. 25 June 2007, 3 July 2007 <http://www.biography.com> A beginning resource for students investigating famous people.

Brain-Juice.com. 27 June, 2007 <http://www.brain-juice.com> Best biographies for 20th Century art, music literature, film and history. If biography not listed, you can put in a suggestion to include it.

Electronic New Jersey home page. Rutgers University. 10 March 2007, 4 June 2007, 24 June 2007, 28 June 2007 <www.scc.rutgers.edu/njh/Paul Robeson> This website is maintained by Rutgers University, Paul Robeson’s alma mater.

Readwritethink.org. 26 May, 2007, 17 June 1007 <http://www.readwritethink.org> Excellent website for teaching resources.

Readwritethink.org. 5 April 2007 <http://readwritethink.org/materials/bio_cube/> An excellent cite for diversified education students who may not be able to do a full research project. After printing, the bio-cube is folded for display

ExxonMobile Masterpiece Theatre’s American Collection Educator’s Site 27 April 2007 <http://www.ncteamericancollection.org/americanwritinggateway.htm> This is a teacher reviewed web site on American writers.

Elie, Marilyn. Biography of Paul Robeson. Highlands home page. 24 May 2007 <www.highlands.com/Robeson/bio.html> This site offers a respectable biography of Paul Robeson.

Myhero.com. The Hero Project. The Teachers Room. 3 June 2007, 26 June 2007 <http://myhero.com/myhero/go/theteachersroom/index.asp> This is an excellent web site for teachers. It provides resources for the cross curricular study of heroes.
Paul Robeson Centennial Celebration Lesson Plans. University of Chicago Education Department 9 March 2007 http://www.cpsr.cs.uchicago.edu/ robeson/links. Website with additional lesson plans and a syllabus on Paul Robeson for all grade levels
Seagrave, Pia. I-Search Paper Format Guide. English Department, Gallaudet University. 27 May 2007 <http://depts.gallaudet.edu/englishworks/writing/ formatsheet.html > This is step by step guide for students in the I-Search process
Literacymatters.org. 8 June 2007 <http://www.literacymatters.org> This website is a good source for using the I-Search process.

Videotape, “Paul Robeson: Here I Stand”, PBS, February 24, 1999 Interesting documentary about the life and career of Paul Robeson. Interviews with people who knew him personally.

Student Resources

Sadlier-Oxford. Writing a Research Paper. New York: William H. Sadlier, Inc., 2005

Answers.com. 5 May 2007 <http:// www. answers.com>

Biography.com. 25 June 2007, 3 July 2007 <http://www.biography.com>

Brain-Juice.com. 27 June, 2007 <http://www.brain-juice.com>

ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre’s American Collection Educator’s Site. 27 April 2007 <http://www.ncteamericancollection.org/americanwritinggateway.htm>

Readwritethink.org. 26 May, 2007, 17 June 1007 <http://www.readwritethink.org>

Seagrave, Pia. I-Search Paper Format Guide. English Department, Gallaudet University. 27 May 2007 <http://depts.gallaudet.edu/englishworks/writing/ formatsheet.html >

Electronic New Jersey home page. Rutgers University. 10 March 2007, 4 June 2007, 24 June 2007, 28 June 2007 <www.scc.rutgers.edu/njh/Paul Robeson>

Elie, Marilyn. Biography of Paul Robeson. Highlands home page. 24 May 2007 <www.highlands.com/Robeson/bio.html>

Appendix A

Pennsylvania Academic Standards For Reading, Writing, Speaking And Listening

1.1 Learning to Read Independently Purpose, word recognition, vocabulary, comprehension, interpretation, fluency

1.2 Reading Critically In All content Areas Detail, inferences, fact v. opinion, comparison, analysis and evaluation

1.3 Reading, Analyzing and Interpreting Literature Purposes and word recognition, vocabulary, comprehension and interpretation, fluency

1.4 Types of Writing Narrative, informational, persuasive

1.5 Quality of Writing Focus, content, organization, style, conventions

1.6 Speaking and listening Listening, speaking, discussion, presentation

1.7 Characteristics and function of English Languages Etymology, variations, | application

1.8 Research Topic selection, information location, organization