Accomplished as a scholar, athlete, actor, singer, and global activist, Paul Robeson is one of Rutgers University's most distinguished alumni and the quintessential 20th century Renaissance man.
The son of a runaway slave, Robeson attended Rutgers College in New Brunswick on an academic scholarship, becoming the university’s third black student and its first black football player. At Rutgers, "Robey"—as he was known at school—showed his prowess on the athletic field as well as in the classroom. An extraordinary athlete, he won 15 varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and track. He was a two-time All-American in football who is in the College Football Hall of Fame. His scholarly accomplishments included being inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society and Rutgers' Cap and Skull Honor Society. At Rutgers, Robeson, who spoke more than 20 languages fluently, honed his oratory skills as a member of the Intercollegiate Debating Association. He was valedictorian of his graduating class in 1919.
After graduation, Robeson earned a law degree from Columbia Law School but decided to use his artistic talents in theater and music to promote African and African-American history and culture. Over nearly four decades, he achieved worldwide acclaim as a vocalist and actor on stage and screen. A towering figure in the African-American struggle for human dignity and democratic rights, Robeson connected this struggle with people around the world who also were fighting for political rights, cultural recognition and economic justice.
The spotlight that shines on Robeson on the centennial of his graduation from Rutgers illuminates the rich legacy he left at the university and the world.
The Life of Paul Robeson
Watch a timelapse of Paul Robeson Blvd sign being erected on Route 18
Paul Robeson is Honored at the 2019 Rutgers University Commencement
Susan Robeson received a replica doctor of humane letters degree bestowed to her grandfather Paul Robeson in 1973.
Watch the dedication and unveiling of the Paul Robeson Plaza
Watch the Paul Robeson Plaza Groundbreaking Ceremony
Paul Robeson Centennial Committee