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Film Screening – Paul Robeson: “I’m a Negro. I’m an American.”

September 20, 2023 @ 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm

This event is part of the 2023 Campus Weeks — Germany on Campus initiative sponsored by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Join us for a screening of “Paul Robeson: ‘I’m a Negro. I’m an American.'” (1989) in Dey Hall Toy Lounge, with opening remarks by Dr. Evan Torner, followed by a discussion.


Film Synopsis

A cinematic homage to the son of a former slave, the African American singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson (1898–1976). The documentary tells his story in non-chronological order but focuses on certain life situations and important events using a compilation of materials: rarely shown historic footage, photographs of the U.S. civil rights movement, speeches, performances and visits to East Germany and the Soviet Union. Interviews with Paul Robeson Jr., Earl Robinson, Pete Seeger and Harry Belafonte give insight into the courageous life of a Renaissance man. As a “voice of the other America,” East German officials used Robeson’s image to bolster GDR solidarity with the U.S. civil rights movement.

This 1989 documentary—co-produced by the GDR’s DEFA Studio for Documentary Film and the West Berlin production company Chronos, with scenes shot in the U.S—made by East German film director Kurt Tetzlaff, honors the towering American artist, athlete and civil rights activist Paul Robeson (1898-1976). The film visits episodes in Robeson’s life, drawing attention to his performances and writings, as well as to the virulent racism and anti-communism he faced in the U.S. Interviews provide personal insights into him as a man.

The 2022 digital restoration of this film remains as true to the original as possible. The image and sound quality of historical clips is limited. Certain words used by the director and people in the film are racist. This English-subtitled version makes efforts to address racist language and honor authorship.


Evan Torner defended his dissertation on race representation in East German genre cinema at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2013, and spent 2013-2014 at Grinnell College as an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow. He has published several articles pertaining to East Germany, critical race theory, DEFA Indianerfilme, science-fiction, transnational genre cinema, and game studies, as well as co-edited several books. His volume Immersive Gameplay: Essays on Role-Playing and Participatory Media co-edited with William J. White was published with McFarland Publishing in 2012, and he is one of the founding editors of the Analog Game Studies journal ( His major projects underway include the Handbook of East German Cinema: The DEFA Legacy, co-edited with Henning Wrage and under contract with Walter De Gruyter, and a monograph entitled A Century and Beyond: Critical Readings of German Science-Fiction Cinema.

This event is part of the “Campus Weeks 2023 – Germany on Campus“ initiative by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany. Co-sponsored by the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures.

Logo of the German Embassy in WashingtonHandle of the German Embassy in the US (@GermanyinUSA)
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