By: Richard L. Smith
Kicking off Black History Month in New Jersey with a 29-day tribute to influential African Americans, we begin by celebrating the remarkable life of Paul Robeson, a true icon of art and activism.Born in Princeton, Paul Robeson was a multi-talented American bass-baritone, a distinguished actor on stage and film, and a fiery activist for civil rights.
His journey took him from the halls of Rutgers College and Columbia University, where he shone not only as a brilliant scholar but also as a star athlete, to the prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies in London, where he studied Swahili and linguistics in 1934.
Robeson's commitment to social justice led him to become a vocal advocate in the Civil Rights Movement, championing equality and justice in the United States.
Despite facing challenges for his political views and sympathies towards the Soviet Union, Robeson's resilience never wavered.
In 1915, his academic excellence earned him a scholarship to Rutgers College. There, he emerged as a consensus All-American twice and proudly stood as the class valedictorian.
His athletic prowess continued to shine, leading to his eventual induction into the College Football Hall of Fame nearly 80 years later.
Parallel to his sporting achievements, he earned his LL.B. from Columbia Law School while concurrently playing in the National Football League (NFL).Robeson's artistic legacy is vast, with a discography that includes 276 distinct songs recorded between 1925 and 1961. His first recordings, spirituals "Steal Away" and "Were You There" in 1925, marked the beginning of a diverse and impactful music career.
His repertoire spanned across Americana, popular standards, classical music, European folk songs, political songs, and spoken excerpts from plays, showcasing his versatility and depth as an artist.
On January 23, 1976, Paul Robeson passed away in Philadelphia at the age of 77, leaving behind a legacy that continues to inspire.
Today, as we remember his life and accomplishments, we lay to rest not just a man but a symbol of unwavering courage and relentless pursuit of equality.
Paul Robeson's life story remains a beacon of inspiration, celebrating the indomitable spirit and cultural contributions of one of New Jersey's most prominent African American figures.
INFORMATION & IMAGE CREDIT: Wikipedia
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