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Remembering slavery on screen: Paul Robeson in The Song of Freedom (1936)

Durkin, Hannah


Hannah Durkin


This article examines cinematic remembrances of the Atlantic slave trade through the lens of Paul Robeson-starring British film The Song of Freedom (1936). An exceptional visualization of the horrors of the Middle Passage in transatlantic interwar cinema, the production nevertheless recapitulates an abolitionist visual paradigm characterized by lacunae and distortion. Yet, it also serves as an exploration of African independence driven by Robeson's self-reflexive performance, demand for script approval and stardom. Robeson's measure of authorial influence over the film represents a unique instance in British cinema in which a black performer was able to reframe dehumanizing representations of historical black experiences into a hopeful vision of an independent black future.


Durkin, H. (2013). Remembering slavery on screen: Paul Robeson in The Song of Freedom (1936). Slavery and Abolition, 34(2),

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date May 31, 2013
Deposit Date Nov 30, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 30, 2015
Journal Slavery and Abolition
Print ISSN 0144-039X
Electronic ISSN 1743-9523
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 34
Issue 2
Keywords Paul Robeson, The Song of Freedom (1936), British interwar cinema, British colonialism, anti-imperialism, slavery in cinema
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Slavery & Abolition on 31 May 2013, available online:


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