06 February 2013

28 Days of Black HIstory: Paul Robeson

Paul Leroy Robeson was born April 8, 1898 in Princeton New Jersey. He was a singer, actor, lawyer and football player.

Robeson won a scholarship to Rutgers University making him only the third black person to be admitted and he was the only black person at the University during his tenure. While at Rutgers, after proving he could play and despite racially charged initiation he played for the schools football team and only sat out one game, due to a southern team refusing to play with a Negro.  Robeson was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and was voted Valedictorian by his classmates.

Rutgers matriculated at New York University Law school in 1919, but transferred to Columbia University Law in 1920 because he felt uncomfortable due to racial issues.  While at Columbia Robeson acted in off campus productions and became active during the Harlem Renaissance.  During this time Robeson also played with the National Football Leagues, Akron Pro's.

Robeson's portrayal of Othello in London has been considered the high point in English Shakespearean  theatre in the 20th Century.

Due to Robeson's advocacy of anti-Imperialism, affiliation with Communism and criticism of the United States Government, he was blacklisted during MCarthyism. Robeson's refusal to recant his views, he was denied a U.S. Passport, thus was unable to work in Europe and caused him financial ruin and caused his health to decline as well. 

Robeson died Januray 23, 1976 due to complications from a stroke in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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