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220px-Paul_Robeson_1942_crop.jpg (15571 bytes)

PAUL ROBESON

Actor, Singer, Humanitarian (1898-1976)

He was born in Princeton, New Jersey, on April 9, 1898.  At Rutgers University he became a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the first black All-American football player.  He also graduated from Columbia University Law School.  As an actor, he scored his first major successes in New York city in 1924, appearing in Eugene O'Neil's "All God's Chillun Got Wings" and the "Emperor Jones."  His first vocal recital was in 1925, in New York city.  A bass-baritone noted for the rich lyric vibrancy of his voice, Robeson became one of the most popular concert artists of his day.  At the same time, he continued to be a major actor, appearing on the stage in "Black Boy" (1926) and "Porgy" (1928). 

Critics applauded his "Othello."  He also appeared in 11 motion pictures, notably "Show Boat" (1936), in which his singing of "Ol' Man river" was a highlight.  Robeson lived in Europe from 1928 until 1939; he became an outspoken friend of the the Soviet Union.  During the 1950s, his refusal to sign a loyalty oath, his acceptance of the 1952, Stalin Peace Prize, and his militant advocacy of equal rights for American Blacks sent his career into decline, and his U.S. passport was revoked for a time.  Robeson lived his last decades in seclusion; he died in Philadelphia, on January 23, 1976

Revised: July 18, 2013.