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Paul Robeson’s 124th Birthday is April 9, 2022.

Remembering Robeson

Robeson the Revolutionary

Paul Leroy Bustill Robeson was one of the most well-known, successful and influential figures of the 20th century. Although best known as an actor and singer for his famous role in “Show Boat,” the song “Ol’ Man River” and for his legendary interpretation of “Othello”, he was a Renaissance Man who received recognition as a cultural scholar, an outstanding athlete, an author and political activist. He was the first Black actor to play noted roles in the American Theatre. Mostly, Mr. Robeson was a leader in the war against racism in America and fascism abroad. As Gerald Horne notes in his biography of Robeson, “you cannot fully appreciate how the Jim Crow system came to an end without an understanding of the life of Paul Robeson.”

 

Robeson was the youngest of five children born to Reverend William Drew Robeson, a former slave and pastor of the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church in Princeton, New Jersey and Maria Louisa Bustill Robeson, a member of the prominent Philadelphia Bustill family. He was born in Princeton on April 9, 1898, at 72 Witherspoon Street (now 110 Witherspoon Street).

Robeson in football uniform at Rutgers, c. 1919

 

In 1907 Mr. Robeson moved with his father to Westfield, New Jersey then to Somerville, New Jersey. In 1915 he graduated from Somerville High School as an outstanding scholar and athlete. In 1919 he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and a letter athlete from Rutgers University, where he was a two time first-team All-American and valedictorian. He received a law degree from Columbia University Law School and in the early 1920’s he worked with a law firm in New York City before pursuing a career in the arts and as a human rights advocate.

 

In his later years Robeson lived at the home of his sister, Marion, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he died on January 23, 1976. Since his death, recognition of his extraordinary achievements and activism has continued to grow. His efforts to end Apartheid in South African were posthumously rewarded in 1978 by the United Nations General Assembly. In 1980, Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist won an Academy Award for best short documentary. Later, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and he was named to the College Football Hall of Fame and American Theater Hall of Fame.

Paul Robeson with Uta Hagen in the Theatre Guild production of Othello (1943–44)

 

Despite many incredible personal successes, Robeson’s commitment to African American equality, Black liberation, workers’ rights, internationalism, peace, and socialism made him a pariah of white America; he was investigated during the McCarthy era and denied a passport by the U.S. State Department until it was restored as a result of a 1958 Supreme Court Decision, among other injustices. However, he remained unwaveringly committed to worldwide freedom, peace and brotherhood until the end of his life. With the fight for equality and justice continuing today, it is more important than ever to remember Robeson the revolutionary.

Robeson leading Moore Shipyard (Oakland, California) workers in singing the “Star Spangled Banner”, September 1942.

 

“Through my singing and acting and speaking I want to make freedom ring.  Maybe I can touch people’s hearts better than I can their minds, with the common struggle of the common man.”  -Paul Leroy Robeson

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CONGRATULATIONS TO PRINCETON'S OWN KELLY CURTIS

 

Congratulations and heartfelt support are sent to Kelly Curtis who, as a member of the U.S. Women’s Skeleton Racing Team, will represent the United States at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, China. There are several pictures of her on the skeleton sled, just google her name – Kelly Curtis Princeton, or Kelly Curtis bobsled.

Kelly, daughter of Mr. John and Mrs. Deborah Curtis and youngest of four, was born, raised, and educated in Princeton, New Jersey. Kelly was a noted athlete throughout her Princeton High and The Lawrenceville School years and as a student at Springfield College.

Honoree: Leighton Newlin

Date: January 5, 2022

Elected: Princeton Councilmember

 

Honoree: Rev. Gregory Smith

Award: Ordination and Installation as Pastor

Date: November 20, 2021

Awarded By: Second Calvary Baptist Church, Hopewell, NJ

 

Honoree: Shirley Satterfield

Award: Community Engagement Award

Date: November 17, 2021

Awarded By: Princeton University and Pace Center for Civic Engagement

 

Honoree: Shirley Satterfield

Award: Liz Erickson Impact Award

Date: October 28, 2021

Awarded By: NonProfit Connection

Honoree: Bob Hillier, FAIA

Award: Reginald F. Lewis Community Service Award for Excellence in Business

Date: February 12, 2021

Awarded By: First Baptist Church of Princeton

 

Honoree: Shirley A. Satterfield

Award: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award

Date: January 16, 2021

Awarded By: New Jersey Education Association (NJEA)

 

Honoree: Rev. David McAlpin

Award: Recognition Celebration

Date: January 30, 2021

Awarded By: Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church

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