Paul Robeson

April 9, 1898 – January 23, 1976

Paul Leroy Robeson was a staggeringly talented singer and performer. His definitive baritone voice led to landmark performances in New York, London and around the world. He starred notably in original Broadway productions of All God’s Chillun Got Wings and The Emperor Jones (both by Eugene O’Neill) and appeared in 4 different versions of Jerome Kern‘s quintessential hit, Show Boat, including the 1936 film version, which made famous his rendition of “Ol’ Man River.”

In addition to performing, Robeson was also a star athlete. He was an All-American football player for Rutgers and played 2 seasons in the National Football League while working his way through graduate school. A key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, Robeson became an international singing star leading to him spending a lot of time in Europe during some very precarious political times. His experiences with racism and how it manifested in different countries, along with his education (he earned a law degree from Columbia) helped shape what would become his lasting, non-entertainment legacy: that of a political activist. Due to his favorable views on the Soviet Union, Robeson was blacklisted during the height of the McCarthy “Red Scare” and had a famous public altercation with baseball star Jackie Robinson over comments that Robeson made in Paris about the role of African Americans and the looming Cold War.

After the end of McCarthyism, Robeson again traveled the world performing. He played Othello in Shakespeare‘s hometown in England, performed in Europe and toured Australia and New Zealand. His health began to deteriorate and he suffered several mental and emotional breakdowns that his family attributed to “constant CIA and U.S. government harassment.” Robeson finally returned to the U.S. in 1963 and lived out the remainder of his life more or less in seclusion. He declined invitations to appear or speak publicly regarding the raging Civil Rights movement at the time. He died in his sister’s home in Philadelphia at the age of 77 following a stroke.


Ferncliff Cemetery – Hartsdale, NY

Specific Location

Hillcrest A, Grave 1511; At the southern edge of the Hillcrest section, Paul is buried one space north of the path just past the second tree heading away from the Rosewood Mausoleum.


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