Paul Robeson Jr.

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Paul Robeson Jr.
Born(1927-11-02)November 2, 1927
Brooklyn, New York
DiedApril 26, 2014(2014-04-26) (aged 86)
Jersey City, New Jersey
OccupationAuthor, historian
Alma materCornell University (1949)
Marilyn Paula Greenberg
(m. 1949, his death)

Paul Leroy Robeson Jr. (November 2, 1927 – April 26, 2014) was an American author, archivist and historian.


Robeson was born in Brooklyn to entertainer and activist Paul Robeson and Eslanda Goode Robeson. As his family moved to Europe he grew up in England (visiting the St Mary's Town and Country School in London) and Moscow, in the Soviet Union. In Moscow he attended an elite school. The Robesons returned to the United States in 1939 to live first in Harlem, New York, and after 1941 in Enfield, Connecticut. Robeson graduated from Enfield High School and attended Cornell University where he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 1949.

Robeson's paternal grandfather Reverend William Drew Robeson was born into slavery,[1] escaped from a plantation in his teens[2] and eventually became the minister of Princeton's Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church in 1881. Robeson's paternal grandmother, Maria Louisa Bustill[3] was from a prominent Quaker family of mixed ancestry: African, Anglo-American, and Lenape.[4]

Robeson worked on the legacy of his father, published a two-volume biography of him, and created an archive of his father's films, photographs, recordings, letters, and publications.[5] As an advocate for social and racial justice he shared the political views of his father, indicating that "like him, I am a black radical".[5][6] He was married to Marilyn Greenberg in 1949; the couple had two children, David (died 1998) and Susan,[7] and one grandchild.[6]

Robeson died of lymphoma in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 2014.[5]

Paul Robeson Sr. legacy[edit]

Robeson maintained on many occasions that his father "never joined the Communist Party or any party for that matter -- he was an independent artist and would never submit to any kind of organizational discipline."

On his own politics he stated: "I was much more an organized political person", he said, adding that from about 1948 to 1962, he was a member of the Communist Party USA. "It was an instrument, a radical instrument that could help advance the interests of African-Americans. It helped build the early civil-rights movement and independent trade union movement in the 1930s, '40s and '50s." He said he left the party in 1962 after "it became bureaucratic and corrupt".[8]

Robeson's father, Paul Sr., was one of his closest friends and protectors, traveling and living with him intermittently during his life. Following his father's death, Robeson Jr. worked extensively to establish the Paul Robeson Archive and the Paul Robeson Foundation. The archive, housed at Howard University's Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, is the largest repository in the Western hemisphere of Robeson documents and articles, totaling well over 50,000 items.[9] He was of Igbo descent through his father.[10]


  • Paul Robeson Jr. Speaks to America: The Politics of Multiculturalism. USA: Rutgers University Press. 1993. ISBN 0-8135-2322-2.
  • The Undiscovered Paul Robeson: An Artist's Journey, 1898-1939. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 2001. ISBN 0-471-24265-9.
  • The Undiscovered Paul Robeson: Quest for Freedom, 1939–1976. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. 2010. ISBN 9780-471-40973-1.
  • Black Way of Seeing: From "Liberty" to Freedom. New York: Seven Stories Press. 2006. ISBN 1-58322-725-3.
  • "The Counterfeit `Paul Robeson.'". The New York Amsterdam News. 91 (9): 24–25. 2000-03-02.


  1. ^ Francis, Hywel (May 1, 2014). "The inheritor of his father's political mantle". Morning Star. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  2. ^ Robeson 2001, pp. 4, 337–338; cf. Boyle & Bunie 2005, p. 4, Duberman 1989, p. 4, Brown 1997, pp. 9–10
  3. ^ Robeson 2001, p. 3; cf. Boyle & Bunie 2005, p. 18, Duberman 1989, pp. 4–5
  4. ^ Brown 1997, pp. 5–6, 145–149; cf. Robeson 2001, pp. 4–5; Boyle & Bunie 2005, pp. 10–12
  5. ^ a b c Fitzsimmons, Emma G. (April 28, 2014). "Paul Robeson Jr., Activist and Author, Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Matt Schudel (April 29, 2014). "Paul Robeson Jr., protector of father's legacy, dies at 86". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  7. ^ Boyd, Herb. "Paul Robeson Jr, the son of a legend who made his own mark, dead at 86". New York Amsterdam News. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
  8. ^ Arnold H. Lubasch (October 21, 1993). "In Harlem With: Paul Robeson Jr.; Finding His Own Voice And Learning to Use It". The New York Times. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  9. ^ Duberman, Martin (1989). Paul Robeson. New York: Knopf. p. 557. ISBN 0-394-52780-1.
  10. ^ Robeson II, Paul (2001). The Undiscovered Paul Robeson: An Artist's Journey, 1898–1939 (PDF). Wiley. p. 3. ISBN 0-471-24265-9. Retrieved December 27, 2008. A dark-skinned man descended from the Ibo tribe of Nigeria, Reverend Robeson was of medium height with broad shoulders, and had an air of surpassing dignity.

External links[edit]