Ol' Man Robeson

The media's darling of the day is rapper 50 Cent, whose face is splayed across movie screens in the bio-pic Get Rich or Die Tryin'. The publicity poster encapsulates that tough trajectory with an image of the tattooed rapper, a baby in one arm and a gun in the back of his jeans. If we take our cultural cues from the media, that is the face of African-American ambition in 2005. Not too long ago there was another popular recording artist who showed, in quite different colors, how difficult and precious the rise to popular success can be for a black man in America. The New Federal Theater is mounting Phillip Hayes Dean's 1978 play with music, Paul Robeson, whose Broadway debut starred James Earl Jones. The son of a former slave turned an all-American athlete, Broadway star, lawyer, and global activist, Robeson remains one of the most stellar individuals of the 20th century.

New Federal is making its home at the Abron Arts Center, tucked just a few blocks under the Williamsburg Bridge on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Known as the breeding ground for some of the best black actors in America

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