Our Black History Month celebration of the men and women that have and continue to make an impact on the sports – and yes, athletic world, too – continues with getting to know Paul Robeson, who played professional football for three teams, including the Milwaukee Badgers.
In addition to playing football – he also competed at Rutgers University – Robeson was an activist, actor, singer, and lawyer. And as Sports Illustrated described him, Roberson was “a true renaissance man.”
Getting to know Paul Robeson:
- Paul Leroy Robeson was born in April 9, 1898 in Princeton, New Jersey. He attended Somerville High School and Rutgers University.
In addition to studying at Rutgers, Robeson also went to Columbia University where he studied law while playing professional football.
- Robeson’s father, William, was a minister that escaped slavery in North Carolina as a teenager.
- As a high school student, Robeson performed in two plays – Julis Caesar and Othello – and sang in the chorus. He played four sports, including football, and won a statewide academic contest to Rutgers. He was also named his class valedictorian.
- At Rutgers, Robeson collected numerous varsity letters in multiple sports while securing first-team All-American honors during his junior and senior seasons. Walter Camp, who played, coached, and wrote about football, considered Robeson the greatest student-athlete to play the end position.
- One of Robeson’s most impressive moments on the gridiron came during his junior year against the Newport Naval Reserve.
- Robeson, who was inducted into the Rutgers Sports Hall of Fame in 1988, led the football team to a 22-6-3 record. In those 31 games, Rutgers tallied 941 points.
- Prior to his days at Rutgers, Robeson played three seasons of professional football in Hammond, Indiana, Akron, Ohio, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He used his earnings – $500 per game – to “pay his way through law school at Columbia University.”
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