National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Paul Robeson: American\African American
Paul Robeson united great talent with commitment to justice in a career that won him celebrity and respect throughout the world. Educated at Rutgers University-where he was class valedictorian and a two-time football All-American-and Columbia Law School, he sought greater opportunity than the legal profession then offered African Americans. In 1925 Robeson established himself as an actor with his starring role in Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones and also earned international acclaim for his concert performances of African American spirituals. For more than three decades, he traveled throughout the United States and Europe appearing on stage, in film, and in concert. Robeson became a committed socialist and worked actively against fascism both before and during the World War II. But after 1945, growing conservatism at home clashed with his strong support of left-wing political causes to curtail his American performing career.