Acclaimed portrait of black civil rights pioneer coming to Reading this October

Robeson in 1958, the year in which his political activism had forced him to leave the United States and live in exile in the UK. Credit: The National Portrait Gallery

Reading Museum, working in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, has announced its latest high-profile display, featuring a portrait of the black civil rights pioneer, actor and musical virtuoso Paul Robeson.

The bromide photographic print portrait by Neil Libbert shows Robeson in 1958, the year in which his political activism had forced him to leave the United States and live in exile in the UK.

Paul Robeson concert at Reading Town Hall, May 1960 Credit: Reading Museum / Reading Borough Council

This year marks 60 years since Paul Robeson sang to a large and enthralled audience at Reading Town Hall; a legendary event in Reading's history of embracing cultural diversity which was arranged by the Reading and District Association for Peace.

Besides his incredible legacy in film and music, I believe that Mr Robeson's message of racial equality, worker's rights, empowerment and peace-making echoes through time and it has never been more important to reflect upon this.

Cllr Karen Rowland, Reading's Lead Member of Heritage, Culture and Recreation

Cllr Karen Rowland, Reading's Lead Member of Heritage, Culture and Recreation, said: "I congratulate everyone involved in securing the loan of this iconic portrait by working in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery to create an even more special Black History Month celebration here in Reading".

The National Portrait Gallery has been collecting portraits of men and women who have made a significant contribution to British life and history since 1856.

We hope that sending portraits 'home' in this way will foster a sense of pride and create a personal connection for local communities to a bigger national history

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery

The display is part of Reading's celebration of Black History Month during October. It is also part of a major project developed by London's National Portrait Gallery called 'Coming Home'. The project sees portraits of iconic individuals travelling to places associated with their subjects.