An illuminating biography of the bold, principled, and fiercely independent woman who defied convention to make her own mark on the world.
Eslanda "Essie" Cardozo Goode Robeson lived a colorful and amazing life. Her career and commitments took her many places: colonial Africa in 1936, the front lines of the Spanish Civil War, the founding meeting of the United Nations, Nazi-occupied Berlin, Stalin's Russia, and China two months after Mao's revolution. She was a woman of unusual accomplishment—an anthropologist, a prolific journalist, a tireless advocate of women's rights, an outspoken anti-colonial and antiracist activist, and an internationally sought-after speaker. Yet historians for the most part have confined Essie to the role of Mrs. Paul Robeson, a wife hidden in the large shadow cast by her famous husband. In this masterful book, biographer Barbara Ransby refocuses attention on Essie, one of the most important and fascinating Black women of the twentieth century.
"Compelling."—Eleanor J. Bader, In These Times
"In this incredibly powerful, vital work, Ransby has rescued Eslanda Robeson from the shadows of her famous husband and establishes her as one of the most important activists, scholars, critics and theorists to connect anticolonialism with the black freedom movement in the U.S."— Robin D.G. Kelley
"Fascinating. . . A poignant portrait of a peripatetic, human rights activist willing to challenge oppression of any form wherever she could find it."—Kam Williams, Insight
"This long overdue biography of a bold scholar-activist emerging from the shadow of her famous husband is a gift, and such are Ransby's narrative skills that I wept when, in her final pages, the vibrant Essie died, two days shy of 70. Ransby has a history of rescuing historically overlooked black female leaders; a prior biography was of the venerable civil rights activist Ella Baker. This new work is a major contribution to her glorious reclamation project."—Joan Steinau Lester, Ms. Magazine
"What Barbara Ransby achieved in her biography of Ella Baker is repeated with verve and astonishing insight in Eslanda."— Herb Boyd, New York Amsterdam News
"From a master biographer and historian of African American women, this mesmerizing story of an extraordinary woman's life and struggles offers a global view of black radical history. After this book no one will be able to think of Eslanda merely as Mrs. Paul Robeson."—Linda Gordon, author, Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits
"Barbara Ransby has produced an insightful, fascinating, and significant biography. Eslanda Robeson has too long stood in the shadow of her remarkable husband, but as Ransby shows she was an important writer and political activist in her own right, whose life illuminates the international dimensions of the 20th-century black freedom movement."— Eric Foner, Columbia University
"This is an enormously rich book by a masterful biographer, full of novel insights and surprises."— Penny Von Eschen, University of Michigan