Paul Robeson considered Jericho one of his most positive accomplishments in projecting a screen image of a Black man with courage, honor, self-sacrifice and intelligence who achieves success and happiness. Robeson’s first British film Sanders of the River ended up being an embarrassment for the actor, its story turning into a celebration of British colonialism. Robeson felt betrayed by the production team and sought without success to buy all circulating prints. As a result, Robeson demands artistic control over the final cut of the film. For example, the ending was to be that Jericho, homesick, agreed to help clear the captain’s name in the United States. After their plane crashes in the desert, Jericho dies trying to save Captain Mack. Instead, Robeson simply requested that the movie ends with the captain flying off alone.
A World War I officer who escapes his fate as a black man by fleeing to Africa and creating a new world for himself.
The epic film begins as a World War I American troop ship is torpedoed, and many soldiers are trapped below the deck. Robeson plays Jericho Jackson, a medical student drafted into the war. Jericho heroically saves the trapped men, in defiance of his superior’s orders to abandon ship, but he accidentally kills the officer in the melee. Despite his heroism, Jericho is court-martialed for refusing an order. Embittered, he escapes, and an officer named Captain Mack is held responsible for his escape and court-martialed.
Jericho ends up in North Africa, where he meets the Tuareg people. When he uses his medical skills to heal the sick, the Tuareg welcome Jericho into their tribe, and he marries and raises a family with them, eventually becoming their leader. He leads his people to victory over rivals and brings peace and unity to the region through which the Tuareg trek annually to trade for salt. When an anthropology film crew’s coverage of the salt trek is shown in London, Captain Mack spots Jericho in the film and vows to track him down. Finally, when the Captain sees what good works Jericho has done for his people, he relents. The movie end with the captain flying off alone.