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Paul Robeson: Entertainer and Activist title graphic

photo of Paul Robeson



College Days

- The Entertainer

- The Activist



February 2002

Paul Robeson was born on April 9, 1898, in Princeton, New Jersey. His father began life as a slave but escaped and became a pastor. When Robeson was young, his father lost his job as pastor and had to support the family by driving carriages. His mother was a schoolteacher, but she died when Robeson was only six.

The family moved to Somerset in 1910, and his father became a pastor at another church. His father encouraged his son to learn as much as possible. He wanted Robeson to overcome the discrimination (different, unfavorable treatment) that he might receive because he was African-American. At school, Robeson did well in academics, music, singing, and sports. Robeson wanted to use his education and talents to represent his race. He wanted to break stereotypes about African-Americans and become a role model. (Stereotyping is assuming that everyone in a group of people has the same characteristics.)

When Robeson entered high school, there were only 12 African-Americans in his class of 200. He met many white students and got along with them. But he knew he would never be fully accepted because he was black.

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