The world of black intelligentsia lost a giant of a man and spirit with the death of Paul Robeson Jr., this past Saturday April 26, due to lymphoma. Paul Robeson Jr. was born on Nov. 2, 1927, the only child of black civil and human rights icon Paul Robeson Sr. and his wife Eslanda Robeson.
The younger Robeson shared his father’s powerful body and intelligence spending most of his time in Europe and being educated in Russian schools as a child. He was well known in literary circles and academia. Being fluent in Russian, Roberson worked for many years as a translator. In 1993, he wrote his first book, Paul Robeson Jr. Speaks to America. During an interview with the New York Times, Roberson stated, “I follow in my father’s cultural tradition; and like him, I am a black radical.”
Robeson did his best to preserve his father’s legacy by collecting correspondence and writings of his late father. Part of the Robeson Collection is housed at the historically black college Howard University in Washington, D.C. When it came to the presentation of his father’s social and political views, Robeson was unwavering in making sure all was accurate. So much so, when legendary black actor James Earl Jones starred in the Broadway play Paul Robeson in 1978, the younger Robeson protested it. He was joined in the protest by Maya Angelou and Julian Bond over the way his father’s social views were portrayed.