This Day in History

April 9, 1898: Paul Robeson Born

Time Periods: 1877
Themes: African American, Art & Music

Source: Edward Schwartz Portfolio, Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

“As an artist I come to sing, but as a citizen, I will always speak for peace, and no one can silence me in this.” — Paul Robeson (Apr. 9, 1898 – Jan. 23, 1976).

Paul Robeson, born on April 9, 1898 in Princeton, New Jersey, was one of the most important figures of the 20th century. He was a “renaissance man” — an acclaimed athlete, actor, singer, cultural scholar, author, lawyer, and internationally-renowned political activist.

Learn more about Paul Robeson from this two-minute history lesson by Howard University professor and ZEP Reconstruction campaign advisor Greg Carr.

Photo at top of page: Paul Robeson and the Civil Rights Congress submitting “We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief From a Crime of The United States Government Against the Negro People.” This book-length petition documents hundreds of lynching cases and a clear pattern of government inaction or actual complicity. It charges that in the 85 years since the end of slavery more than 10,000 African Americans are known to have been lynched (an average of more than 100 per year), and that the full number can never be known because the murders are often unreported. This description of the petition is from CRMVets. Read excerpts from the petition.

Read about Robeson’s appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee in the tweet by high school teacher and Zinn Education Project team member Ursula Wolfe-Rocca below.

Additional recommended resources include Paul Robeson: The Renaissance Man (PBS), Americans Who Tell the Truth, and Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson by Barbara Ransby.