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Show BoatPerforming Race in an American Musical$
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Todd Decker

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199759378

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199759378.001.0001

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The Robeson Plan

The Robeson Plan

(p.29) 2 The Robeson Plan
Show Boat

Todd Decker

Oxford University Press

Paul Robeson was the primary inspiration for the song “Ol' Man River.” This chapter details Robeson's mid-Twenties career as a dramatic actor and singer of concert spirituals and describes how Kern and Hammerstein sought to lodge Robeson's persona in Show Boat on several levels. An important source for the tune to “Ol' Man River” from the 1926 show Deep River is reprinted for the first time. Robeson's resistance to Hammerstein, Kern, and producer Florenz Ziegfeld's plans is explained by way of the singer's experiences in Greenwich Village and London and his desire to use his career to shape the white public's perception of African Americans.

Keywords:   Negro spirituals, Ol' Man River, New Negro, Florenz Ziegfeld, Provincetown Players, concert spiritual, Lawrence Brown, Roland Hayes, George Gershwin

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