By the start of World War II, Paul Robeson had given up his lucrative mainstream work to participate in more socially progressive film and stage productions. As David Goliath, in the popular British drama The Proud Valley (1940), Robeson is the quintessential everyman, an American sailor who joins rank-and-file Welsh miners organizing against the powers that be. Concurrently, Robeson committed his support to Paul Strand and Leo Hurwitz's political semidocumentary Native Land (1942). With Robeson's narration and songs, this beautifully shot and edited film exposes violations of Americans' civil liberties and is a call to action for exploited workers around the country. Scarcely shown since its debut, Native Land represents Robeson's shift from narrative cinema to the leftist documentaries that would define the final chapter of his controversial film career.
The Story of Native Land," a new video interview with cinematographer Tom Hurwitz, son of Frontier Films cofounder and Native Land codirector Leo Hurwitz
1958 Pacifica Radio interview with Paul Robeson (Courtesy of Pacifica Radio Archives)