An Invitation to Celebrate Paul Robeson

August 31, 2018

Dear Members of the Rutgers University–New Brunswick Community:

In April 1919, Paul Robeson delivered the commencement address to his Rutgers classmates. Robeson, the university’s third African-American student and its first African-American football player, would go from the commencement stage to the world’s stage, achieving global notoriety for his contributions to the arts, politics, civil rights, and social justice. Now, almost 100 years later, I invite you to join me at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, September 5, for the groundbreaking of the Paul Robeson Plaza, an event that will mark the beginning of our university’s dedication of a new place for the man who gave so much to Rutgers—and the world.

Paul RobesonPaul Leroy Robeson, Class of 1919 CentennialPaul Leroy Robeson was the son of a runaway slave and minister, raised in Princeton, NJ, and attended Rutgers College in New Brunswick on an academic scholarship. At Rutgers, “Robey” — as he was known at school — showed his prowess on the athletic field as well as in the classroom.

After graduation, Robeson earned a law degree from Columbia Law School but chose 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. He may be most remembered as a global activist in the African-American struggle for human dignity and democratic rights.

The Paul Robeson Plaza is an initiative led by Rutgers' Class of 1971 and the Rutgers' African-American Alumni Alliance (RAAA), Inc. to honor Robeson's inimitable legacy. The plaza, which will be located on Voorhees Mall, near Seminary Place, is a gift from the Class of 1971 to celebrate the life of Rutgers' greatest advocate for social justice, and it will serve as a recognition of the power of the human spirit. The dedication of the Paul Robeson Plaza will take place in April 2019, as part of a planned year-long celebration of Robeson's legacy, called the Robeson Centennial, which begins in January.

I hope you will join with me to celebrate our consummate alumnus and the rich legacy he left at the university and with the world. Sincerely, Chris Molloy, Interim Chancellor Rutgers University–New Brunswick