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Robinson, Eugene 1954-

Robinson, Eugene 1954-

(Eugene Harold Robinson)

PERSONAL: Born March 12, 1954, in Orangeburg, SC; son of Harold I. and Louisa Robinson; married Avis Collins, September 23, 1978; children: Aaron E., Lowell E. Education: University of Michigan, B.A., 1974.

ADDRESSES: Home—Arlington, VA. Office—Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20071.

CAREER: Journalist, columnist, and editor. San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, CA, reporter, 1975–80; Washington Post, Washington, DC, city hall reporter, 1980–82, assistant city editor, 1982–84, city editor, 1984–87, South American correspondent, 1988–92, London, England, correspondent, 1992–94, foreign editor, 1994–99, assistant managing editor, 1999–2005, associate editor and columnist, 2005–.

MEMBER: National Association of Black Journalists, Council on Foreign Relations.

AWARDS, HONORS: Nieman fellow, Harvard University, 1988.

WRITINGS:

Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race (memoir), Free Press (New York, NY), 1999.

Last Dance in Havana: The Final Days of Fidel and the Start of the New Cuban Revolution, Free Press (New York, NY), 2004.

SIDELIGHTS: Eugene Robinson is an African-American journalist who grew up in the segregated south. Robinson, whose career with the Washington Post began in 1980, covered South America for the paper for four years, beginning in 1988. He traveled to Brazil, a country with more than sixty million people of African heritage, which has a reputation for a lack of racism. "Initially, Robinson thought of Brazil as a 'Colored People's Promised Land' free of racial tension and anger," wrote Sherri L. Barnes in the Library Journal. But what Robinson found was a different kind of approach toward race, one based on shades of color rather than labels of black or white. Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race is Robinson's insight into the attitudes about race—as he knew them to be in the United States and as he observed them in Brazil. Booklist contributor Vernon Ford wrote that the book "provides a compelling look at American views on race and the often false promise of racial color blindness."

Although in the United States anyone with even a trace of black heritage is categorized as black, Robinson was told by Brazilians that he could be whatever he wished. In spite of this seemingly indifferent attitude toward race, Robinson saw that the poor, and people holding lower level jobs, tended to be dark, while white or paler people filled positions of more importance. "American society sees race but not color," Robinson wrote. "Brazilian society sees color but not race." Anthony Walton remarked in the New York Times Book Review that Robinson concludes the difference "is deeply pernicious, robbing Brazil's dark multitudes of an organizing principle that would allow them to join together in a mass movement with the more educated and generally lighter middle classes, as American blacks did in the 1950s and 1960s." Foreign Affairs contributor Kenneth Maxwell commented on the book's "personal honesty," while a Publishers Weekly critic noted: "Robinson wryly hammers home his key points on the destructive nature of racial prejudice in America." The reviewer added that the book "is full of provocative and worthy insights." Gregory H. Williams averred in Washington Post Book World that "the Brazilian experience suggests that we recognize that race—just as much as place—affects how persons of color are perceived, where in society they land, and how the social fabric of this country is drawn." Williams added: "Robinson's conclusion provides a powerful lesson."

For his next book, Last Dance in Havana: The Final Days of Fidel and the Start of the New Cuban Revolution, Robinson explores modern-day Cuban society via the country's respected music scene. The author presents his story in a timeline from the days when Cuba was a vacation Mecca known for its nightclubs to revolution in the 1950s and Castro's modern-day imprisonment of dissidents. The author also comments on a new future for Cuba after Castro and notes the potential for a social revolution stemming from a consciousness impacted by music, dance, and the arts. He pays special attention to the growing popularity of hip-hop music, claimed by the young for political criticism. "Using music and dance as his window, he illuminates a huge swath of Castro's Cuba," wrote Malcolm Beith in Newsweek International. Beith went on to note: "Through interviews with musicians, some necessarily unnamed Cubans, a few too many cabdrivers and even some government officials, Robinson captures the pulse of contemporary Cuba." Terry Glover, writing in Booklist, called the book a "lush account of a tumultuous, yet resilient, society." Library Journal contributor Thomas A. Karel wrote that the book is a "fascinating and unusual look inside Cuban life and culture."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Robinson, Eugene, Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race, Free Press (New York, NY), 1999.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 1999, Vernon Ford, review of Coal to Cream, p. 1903; July, 2004, Terry Glover, review of Last Dance in Havana: The Final Days of Fidel and the Start of the New Cuban Revolution, p. 1812.

Civil Rights Journal, fall, 1999, review of Coal to Cream, p. 58.

Foreign Affairs, November-December, 1999, Kenneth Maxwell, review of Coal to Cream, p. 139.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 1999, review of Coal to Cream, p. 946.

Library Journal, July, 1999, Sherri L. Barnes, review of Coal to Cream, p. 106; June 15, 2004, Thomas A. Karel, review of Last Dance in Havana, p. 86.

Newsweek International, August 2, 2004, Malcolm Beith, review of Last Dance in Havana, p. 57.

New York Times Book Review, September, 1999, Anthony Walton, "Another Country," p. 30.

Publishers Weekly, July 5, 1999, review of Coal to Cream, p. 52.

Washington Post Book World, August 1, 1999, Gregory H. Williams, "Shades of Meaning," p. 9.

ONLINE

Postwritersgroup.com, http://www.postwritersgroup.com/ (February 27, 2006), profile of author.

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