Filed Under Art and Design

Paul Robeson

A Man of Many Talents

An established singer, actor, intellectual, professional athlete, and activist, to say Robeson was talented would be an understatement. Mark Alan Rhodes, II argues that Paul Robeson was one of the greatest athletic activists in history. He was an all-American football player at Rutgers in 1917 and 1918. In 2015 Rutgers celebrated their 250th anniversary by honoring Robeson. Paul Robeson: Celebrating Rutgers’ 250th anniversary - YouTube. It could be argued that no one has ever performed a better Othello, and he was also an outstanding film actor. He dedicated a lot of time advocating for working people through renditions of Labor Songs and African American spirituals. A member of W.E.B. Du Bois’ “talented tenth”, a title given by Du Bois to the most highly educated or influential 10 percent of African Americans, Robeson was an advocate for many global causes in Asia, Africa, and America. Robeson’s affinity towards black upward mobility was a significant interest of his. He had a strong stance against colonialism in Africa. He believed strongly in the richness of black history and was proactive in anti-lynching efforts along with advocating for desegregation in the military. Robeson was the co-founder of the anti-colonial Council on African Affairs.

In 1923, he graduated from Columbia University with a law degree. The year prior to him graduating he played for the Milwaukee Badgers, one of the little-known former NFL teams. During this time, Robeson lived in Milwaukee. He played his games at Athletic Park, just north of Bronzeville and also had interactions with Marquette College, also in close proximity to the African American community.


Fritz Pollard and Paul Robeson.
Fritz Pollard and Paul Robeson. Pictured together here in 1918, Fritz Pollard (left) recruited Paul Robeson to join him in Milwaukee to play for the Badgers. Paul accepted and they played the 1922 season together. Source: The Crisis Creator: Unknown Date: 1918


3008 N 8th Street, Milwaukee, WI


Kitonga Alexander, “Paul Robeson,” Milwaukee Bronzeville Histories, accessed July 21, 2024,