The African Americans

Search for Truth and Knowledge

By Dr. Leonard Jeffries, Jr.

Part Thirty-Five: African American Cultural Movements—Paul Robeson and Harlem Renaissance

The African American cultural movement of the 1920s and 1930s is often referred to as the Harlem Renaissance. One of the most important figures of this cultural movement was Paul Leroy Robeson, who became a legend in his own time. He was truly an African Renaissance Man. Paul Robeson was not only a multi-talented artist who had a commanding presence on the stage as an actor, he was also an outstanding singer who enthralled audiences around the world. In college he was a great athlete and All-American football star as well as an excellent student. He graduated from Rutgers University with honors and was elected Phi Beta Kappa. He went on to become a lawyer but his heart was in the theater.

The Paul Robeson story is not the story of an individual achiever who contributed to the Harlem Renaissance and the African American Awakening of that period. It is the story of an extraordinary family that for generations achieved success against formidable obstacles. The Robeson Family tradition is distinctive but it is reflective of the achievement of many American Americans. The strength and courage of a Paul Robeson cannot be separated from his family background because it was the parents and grandparents and the community that helped instill a sense of mission and purpose. He had a positive African American socialization and was committed to the struggle to uplift his race and help the poor and oppressed around the world.

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