FOR the thousands of people gathered in Glasgow’s Queen’s Park on May 3, 1960, it was a day they would always remember. As a hush fell across the crowd, the rich bass voice of Hollywood film star, singer, athlete and activist Paul Robeson rang out over the sea of awestruck faces.

The song was Ol’ Man River, an appropriate choice for the son of a slave at a city whose river brought riches reaped from slavery.

When the song finished the crowd of men, women and children rose as one to give him a standing ovation before he stood for two hours signing autographs.

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This was one of the first appearances Robeson had made outside the US since his passport had been revoked because of his left-wing beliefs.

It was finally returned after an international outcry led by British trade unionists and when Robeson was asked to head the May Day Parade in Glasgow in 1960 he gladly accepted.

Now, almost 60 years later, the memorable event is to be marked at the very spot where he performed.

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Through the award-winning play Call Mr Robeson the life of one of the 20th century’s most impressive but overlooked figures will be revived.

The play charts Robeson’s intriguing past, highlighting how his pioneering and heroic political activism led many to describe him as the forerunner of the civil rights movement. It features famous songs and speeches including a spectacularly defiant testimony to the Senate House Un-American Activities Committee.

Written and performed by Tayo Aluko, the play has been proclaimed as an “outstanding tribute and reaffirmation of Robeson’s work and his place in human history”.

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Born in 1898, Robeson had a long and proud record of social and political activism, a record that saw him shunned in America during the 50s when McCarthy communist paranoia was at its height.

When his passport was returned, the Scottish Trades Union Congress invited Robeson to head the march in Glasgow, the largest of its kind in Scotland, and inspired by the stories of Red Clydeside he agreed.

The annual march had been taking place in Glasgow since the 1890s, when crowds up to 100,000-strong would march, party, picnic and listen to political speakers.

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Even by 1960 the crowd was huge with an estimated 12,000 people taking to the streets along with floats and pipe bands.

“Glasgow was still a huge industrial base and the shipyards and factories were doing their dinger and virtually to a man or woman everyone was a trade unionist,” said Lost Glasgow’s Norry Wilson who will speak at the Queen’s Park event in May.

“There was a huge sense of solidarity not just between fellow workers but internationally. At the 1960 event Robeson was given a huge reception. The Glasgow audience would have known exactly what he had been through.”

Wilson said it was important Robeson was remembered particularly at the moment with “all the nonsense going on with Brexit”.

“Scotland has always been outward looking and you can’t read his story without feeling sympathy and anger on his behalf. He was traduced in his own country and had to find solace elsewhere.”

It wasn’t the first time Robeson had been in Scotland. There is footage of him performing at Woolmet Colliery near Danderhall outside Edinburgh with the workers spellbound as he sings in their staff canteen.

It was after this visit in 1949 that his passport was revoked but despite suffering the stress of the loss of a great part of his income because he could no longer perform abroad, Robeson held to his views on workers’ rights.

When his passport was restored he was able to accept an invitation to at Stratford where he played Othello to great acclaim.

Afterwards at Glasgow Queen’s Park, Robeson told the crowd: “You will need all the strength you’ve got to see that you who create the wealth of the country have a chance to enjoy it.”

Kirsty Hood, a Queen’s Park resident and director of Social Enterprise Inhouse Events, which is staging the May weekend event, said: “Paul Robeson’s performance in the park is an important part of the city’s history.

‘‘It is truly inspiring to see the footage of how many people went to see him perform in 1960.

‘‘We’ve heard snippets of memories of those who were there, but we hope that this event gives us the opportunity to collate them together, and of course commemorate the life of the man himself.”

The event organisers would like anyone with any memories of the event to get in touch at, or call 0141 816 9989 to leave your contact details and the team will return your call.