Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Eli Rubin

Second Advisor

Dr. Marion Gray

Third Advisor

Dr. Kira Thurman


Robeson, GDR, socialism, propaganda, race

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


During the 1950s and 1960s, the Cold War, the American Civil Rights movement, and anticolonialism combined to create a complex political, social, and economic landscape and a division of the globe into the so-called first, second, and third worlds. It is within this context that African American performer and activist Paul Robeson traveled to the GDR for an official visit in October 1960.

This visit was highly significant in light of the oppression Robeson had experienced at the hands of the US State Department. In response to Robeson’s communist sympathy, the State Department had revoked Robeson’s passport in 1950, and his travel privileges were not restored until 1958. At this time, various countries and entities began inviting Robeson and his wife, Eslanda, for highly publicized visits. The GDR, trying to gain recognition as the “true” Germany, began a two-year campaign to secure a Robeson visit. Hosting Robeson would allow the GDR to bring itself much-needed publicity. It would allow the GDR to depict itself as an egalitarian state—committed to both economic and racial equality. This thesis relies on archival documents to examine the GDR’s preparations for and public portrayal of this visit. The central argument is that the GDR encouraged Robeson to visit their purportedly class-less and race-less country so that it could promote this visit for propagandistic purposes.