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Paul Robeson Citation Award

Arthur French Awarded 2015 Paul Robeson Citation

Arthur French and Julia Breanetta-Simpson

Credit: Stephanie Masucci

Actors’ Equity member Arthur French was awarded the 2015 Paul Robeson Citation, presented by the Equity Foundation on October 16, 2015 in New York City.

“I remember how I got my Equity card,” French said.  “During my first show, Raisin’ Hell to the Son, the guy said to me, ‘You have to join Equity.’ I walked down every block and looked at the marquees. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. But when he said that, ‘you have to sign a contract,’ it was clear for me. I knew then, that this is where I wanted to be. Equity’s been good to me. I’m so happy to be here among so many members.”

Created in 1971, the award honors individuals or organizations that best exemplify and practice the principles to which Robeson devoted his life: dedication to the universal brotherhood of all humankind, commitment to the freedom of conscience and of expression, belief in the artist’s responsibility to society, respect for the dignity of the individual and concern for and service to all humans of any race or nationality.

French has been a working actor for more than 50 years, from his early work with the Negro Ensemble Company to his most recent appearance on Broadway in The Trip to Bountiful (2013).  For his extensive body of work Off-Broadway, he received an Obie Award for “Sustained Excellence” in 1997. In 2006, he received the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in August Wilson’s Two Trains Running. He’s also appeared in productions of Dividing the Estate, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, You Can’t Take It With You, Death of a Salesman, The River Niger, The Iceman Cometh and Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death, among others.

In addition, he has worked on the road, been on the faculty of HB Studios, and has volunteered at senior centers.

Previous recipients of the Paul Robeson Citation include: Paul Robeson; Maya Angelou; Harry Belafonte; Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee; James Earl Jones; Athol Fugard; Lena Horne; Joseph Papp; Sidney Poitier; Pete Seeger; and, in 2014, Baayork Lee.

The Actors Equity Foundation, a philanthropic and humanitarian non-profit organization, was created in 1962 to aid and assist the members of the acting profession and to promote the theatre arts.  It is separate from Actors’ Equity Association and receives its funding from estate bequests and individual donations.


Award pages:

Arizona Theatre Service
Diversity on Broadway

On June 1, 1971, the Council of Actors' Equity Association established what is now known as the Paul Robeson Committee, and designated Frederick O'Neal as Chair. The Committee resolved to present annual citations to the individual or organization that, during the preceding year or years, best exemplified and practiced the principles and ideals of this great humanitarian, Paul Robeson. For a complete list of recipients click here.

Paul Robeson as Othello

Recipients of the Paul Robeson Award are:

Year Recipient
1974 Paul Robeson
1975 Ossie Davis & Ruby Dee
1976 Lillian Hellman
1977 Pete Seeger
1978 Sam Jaffe
1979 Harry Belafonte
1980 Alice Childress
1981 Studs Terkel
1982 Ed Asner
1983 John Henry Faulk
1984 Lena Horne
1985 Arthur Mitchell
1986 Vinie Burrows
1987 Joe Papp
1988 Jacques D'Amboise
1989 Bill Ross & Dr. Margaret Burroughs
1990 Maya Angelou
1991 Gordon Parks
1992 Art D'Lugoff
1993 Katherine Dunham
1994 Lloyd Richards
1995 Gil Noble
1996 George C. Wolfe
1997 Athol Fugard
1998 Leonard Etienne de Paul
1999 Loften Mitchell
2000 Rosetta LeNoire
2001 Brock Peters
2002 Gertrude Jeanette
2003 Woodie King, Jr.
2004 Judith Jamison
2005 Carl Harms
2006 Bill Cosby
2007 Mercedes Ellington
2008 Sidney Poitier
2009 Micki Grant
2010 Charles Randolph-Wright
2011 James Earl Jones
2012 William Greaves
2013 Shauneille Perry
2014 Baayork Lee
2015 Arthur French
2016 ASTEP
2017 Jamal Joseph

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