|Paul Robeson Jr.|
November 2, 1927|
Brooklyn, New York
April 26, 2014 (aged 86)|
Jersey City, New Jersey
|Alma mater||Cornell University (1949)|
Marilyn Paula Greenberg|
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, escaped from a plantation in his teens and eventually became the minister of Princeton's Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church in 1881. Robeson's paternal grandmother, Maria Louisa Bustill was from a prominent Quaker family of mixed ancestry: African, Anglo-American, and Lenape.
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. 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". He was married to Marilyn Greenberg in 1949; the couple had two children, David (died 1998) and Susan, and one grandchild.
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".
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, currently 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. He was of Igbo descent through his father.
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.