Paul Robeson was the epitome of the 20th-century Renaissance man. He was an exceptional athlete, actor, singer, cultural scholar, author, and political activist. His talents made him a revered man of his time, yet his radical political beliefs all but erased him from popular history. Today, more than one hundred years after his birth, Robeson is just beginning to receive the credit he is due. Read more of Paul Robeson's bio at American Masters»
Paul Robeson's Philadelphia Story
Civil Rights activist, singer and actor Paul Robeson died in Philadelphia 35 years ago this Sunday at his sister's house on 50th and Walnut Streets. Today, the house in West Philadelphia is open to visitors while it's slowly being restored to its past glory when the neighborhood housed middle class families , mostly African American . WHYY's Elisabeth Perez Luna spoke with some of the past neighbors and friends who remember Robeson's presence in the city.
Photo Credit: Isaac Maefield, WPCA artist-in-residence.
Marian Forsythe, Paul Robeson's sister, lived in Philadelphia in an ample, comfortable house at the corner of 50th and Walnut Streets. It was there that Robeson spent the last ten years of his life, from 1966 to 1976. He died on January 23, 1976 at age 77.
In poor health, Robeson lived in semi-reclusion in the refuge of a caring household and a vibrant neighborhood. The memories of his Philadelphia years are kept alive by the people who knew him or just saw him sitting quietly on the porch under his sister's watchful eye.
Those memories are captured in the book, website and CD "Stories from the Paul Robeson House: Lives touched by a Renaissance Man". The project is a collaboration between the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage and WHYY. The interviews were conducted by WHYY's Elisabeth Perez Luna, Karl Seifert is the photographer.
Here are six of the 24 stories posted on The Paul Robeson House website:
Stories from the Paul Robeson House
Click on the images below to listen to the stories.
Paul Robeson's life and art