As singers, Kate Smith and Paul Robeson have something in common. They each recorded the song, “That’s Why Darkies Were Born.”
At NJ.com, Paul Mulshine accurately describes the song as “written from a standpoint of sympathy for Southern blacks,” which helps explains why Robeson, a black communist, sang the song as well.
To read the lyrics is to understand how perverse is an out-of-nowhere attack on the beloved Ms. Smith.
“Someone had to fight the Devil/ Shout about Gabriel’s Horn/
Someone had to stoke the train/ That would bring God’s children to green pastures/ That’s why darkies were born.”
Substitute “people of color” for “darkies” and the song could be sung today as a tribute to black perseverance in times of trial. In fact, Robeson’s version was included on the album “Great Voices of the Century” recorded in 1992 and currently being sold through Amazon and Spotify.
No matter, kowtowing to the neighborhood Red Guard, the Philadelphia Flyers removed Smith’s statue and the New York Yankees banned her iconic rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.”
The plus-sized Smith lived a life free of controversy. In 1939 she performed for the British king and queen at the White House. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan bestowed on Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Said Reagan, “The voice of Kate Smith is known and loved by millions of Americans, young and old. In war and peace, it has been an inspiration.”
Kate Smith was a patriot. In his own way so was Robeson. Unfortunately, he pledged his allegiance to the USSR.
True to form, the media-educational complex has so successfully airbrushed his reputation that today public schools and other institutions named “Paul Robeson” dot the landscape.
If educators don’t know or don’t care about Robeson’s background, historians are beginning to. Among them is the Greek-born, British author Tim Tzouliadis. His 2008 bestseller, “The Forsaken,” should be read by every educator anywhere who thinks “Robeson” might make a good name for a middle school.
When Robeson first visited the Soviet Union in 1934, he found a community of more than 2,000 Americans, black and white, already in place.
Although many of these were political activists, most were ordinary laborers and craftsmen lured during the Depression by the promise of steady work. At the time, they were the toast of the Soviet Union.
By 1937, when Robeson returned to Russia for a lengthy concert tour, Stalin had unleashed his famously paranoid “Terror” against all suspected intriguers.
Stalin was no longer killing kulaks in the middle of nowhere but Americans in the heart of Russia. Robeson pretended not to notice.
His son Pauli, then 10, could see what his father refused to: The parents of his school chums were being arrested and assassinated.
In his memoirs, Pauli lamented how his father had turned his back even on his closest black friends now marooned in the Soviet Union.
By 1949, almost all of the Americans had been incarcerated or liquidated in the Terror along with several million Russians and other foreign nationals. That did not stop Robeson from returning to the Soviet Union that year to entertain.
By the time Stalin died in 1953, no adult with a brain wave could have failed to understand the depths of his depravity, none but the winner of the 1952 Stalin Peace Prize, Paul Robeson.
“Yes, through his deep humanity, by his wise understanding, he leaves a rich and monumental heritage,” Robeson eulogized his beloved Uncle Joe.
“He leaves tens of millions all over the earth bowed in heart-aching grief.” Stalin had left tens of millions under the earth as well.