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Who is Paul Robeson?

February is over, and so is Black History Month.  Too bad. I think all of you should know who Paul Robeson was.  Have you ever heard the song, “Old Man River?” On first hearing, you might think that such song by a Black man is somewhat a betrayal to African Americans and the Civil Rights cause.  Well, I would be careful to question this man’s choice of roles.  First, a bit about this remarkable man. Robeson was, in my opinion, the 20th century Renaissance Man.  In some ways, he did it about all.  He attended Rutgers where he played football and was named an All-American.  He also lettered in several other sports, won awards for his oratory skill, and was named class valedictorian.

After graduation, he first entered law school at NYU and then transferred to Columbia, and played for the NFL while working on his law degree.  He finished law school, acted in musical productions in New York and later played Othello in London.  He went on to the silver screen in movies such as Show Boat.  He also released several albums using that wonderful bass voice of his.

He was also a large figure in the early Civil Rights Movement, but was also a communist.  While I disagree with his economic philosophy, he was unapologetic about any of his stances.  McCarthyism took its toll on his career.  He could have denounced his positions to save his career, but he did not.  He started a small publication in Harlem criticizing US policy.  Read about Paul Robeson here on Wikipedia.


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