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Paul Robeson was a famous African-American athlete, singer, actor, and advocate for the civil rights of people around the world. He rose to prominence in a time when segregation was legal in America and black people were being lynched by white mobs, especially in the South.

Born on April 9, 1898 in Princeton, New Jersey, Paul Robeson was the youngest of five children. His father was a runaway slave who went on to graduate from Lincoln University, and his mother came from a family of Quakers who worked for the abolition of slavery. He came from a family familiar with hardship and with the determination to rise above it. His own lifetime was no less challenging.

In 1915 Paul won a four year academic scholarship to Rutgers University. In spite of open violence and racism expressed by teammates, Robeson won 15 varsity letters in sports (baseball, basketball, track), and was twice named to the All American Football Team. He received the Psi Beta Kappa key in his junior year, belonged to the Cap & Skull Honor Society, and was the Valedictorian of his graduating class in 1919. However, It wasn't until1995, nineteen years after his death, that Paul Robeson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

At Columbia Law School (1919-1923) Paul met and married Eslanda Cordoza Goode, who was to become the first black woman to head a pathology laboratory. She went on to a career in anthropology. He took a job with a law firm after graduation, but left when a white secretary refused to take dictation from him and decided to leave the practice of law. His choice was to use his artistic talents in theater and music to promote African and African American history and culture.

On stage in London, Robeson earned international critical acclaim for his lead role in Othello, for which he won the Donaldson Award for Best Acting Performance (1944), performed in Eugene O'Neill's Emperor Jones and All God's Chillun Got Wings, and the musical Showboat. He is known for changing the lines of the Showboat song "Old Man River" from "...I'm tired of livin' and 'feared of dyin'....," to a stronger and more dignified, "... I must keep fightin' until I'm dying....".

His eleven films included Body and Soul (1924), Jericho (1937), and Proud Valley (1939). Paul noted that his travels had taught him that racism was not as virulent in Europe as it was in the United States. At home it was difficult to find restaurants that would serve him; theaters in New York would only seat blacks in the upper balconies and his performances were often surrounded with threats or outright harassment. In London, on the other hand, Robeson's opening night performance of Emperor Jones brought the audience to it's feet with cheers for twelve encores,

Paul Robeson used his deep baritone voice to promote black spirituals, to share the cultures of other countries, and to benefit the social movements of his time. He sang for peace and justice in 25 languages throughout the United States, Europe, the Soviet Union, and Africa.

Robeson became known as a citizen of the world, as comfortable with the people of the Moscow and Nairobi as with the people of Harlem. Among his friends he counted future African leader Jomo Kenyatta, India's Nehru, anarchist Emma Goldman, and writers James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway. In 1933 Robeson donated the proceeds of All God's Chillun to Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler's Germany. At a rally the next year for anti-fascist forces fighting in the Spanish Civil War, he declared,

"The artist must take sides. He must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative."

In New York in 1939, he premiered in Earl Robinson's "Ballad for Americans", a cantata celebrating the multi-ethnic, multi-racial face of America. It was greeted with the largest audience response since Orson Welles' famous War of the Worlds. During the 1940s Robeson continued to perform and speak out against racism in the U.S. and for peace among nations. As a passionate believer in international cooperation Robeson protested the growing Cold War hostilities and worked tirelessly for friendship and respect between the U.S. and the USSR.

In 1945 he also headed an organization that challenged President Truman to support an anti-lynching law. In the late 1940s, when dissent was scarcely tolerated in the U.S., Robeson openly questioned why African Americans should fight in the army of a government that tolerated racism.

Because of his outspokenness, he was accused by Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) of being a Communist. Robeson saw this claim as an outright attack on the democratic rights of the many people like himself who worked for friendship with other nations, and equal rights for all people. This accusation nearly ended his career. Eighty of his concerts were canceled, and in 1949 two outdoor concerts in Peekskill, N.Y. were attacked by white mobs while state police stood by. In response, Robeson declared, "I'm going to sing wherever the people want me to sing...and I won't be frightened by crosses burning in Peekskill or anywhere else."

In 1950, the U.S. government revoked Robeson's passport, leading to an eight year battle to secure it and to travel again. During those years, Robeson studied Chinese, met with Albert Einstein to discuss the prospects for world peace, published his autobiography, Here I Stand, and sang at Carnegie Hall. In 1960 Robeson made his last concert tour to New Zealand and Australia. Suffering from ill health, Paul Robeson retired from public life in 1963. He died on January 23, 1976, at age 77, in Philadelphia. April 9, 1998 marks his 100th birthday.

For a more detailed version on Robeson's biography visit the New York Public Library on line or visit the Paul Robeson Centennial Site at

What a man!

How could Paul Robeson do all the things he did in a time when there was so many obstaccles for him to surmount, a time of legalized segregation in the land of the Free?  The answer is always in the stars.

Paul Robeson was born a sidereal Pisces, the sign that rules Africa
and African Americans and also slavery, compassion, enemies and the feet.

Paul's Sun makes a sextile to Neptune in Taurus.  Both Neptune and Taurus rule the arts.  Neptune rules long-term money and Taurus rules pocket money.  The Sun/Neptune aspect indicated that Mr. Robeson would have opportunities to act, be involved with sports, art and have long-term success.

He also had the Sun contra parallel Mars and the Sun opposing Juno.  These two aspect helped him to have athlete (Mars) ability, nerve, speed, fearlessness and good muscle strength, a keen sense of justice (Juno) and fair play as well as a strong sexual energy.

Paul Robeson also has Mars square Pluto, great competitive spirit, a never give up attitude, Mars square Saturn, ability to concentrate like a laser beam, focus power to plan, execute, finish projects and endure tremendous pain physically as well as emotionally.

As a singer, Paul had a deep bass voice attributed to Mercury quincunx Saturn and Mercury contra parallel Chiron meaing and extraordinary voice for singing and speaking, as well as an ability to learn many different languages.  

Uranus parallel the North Node, Neptune contra parallel the North Node and a yod (Finger of fate) consisting of Venus, Jupiter and Uranus helped him to stand out among his peers.  Uranus/North Node translates to a man born to be famous, (Uranus) a humanitarian, a citizen of the world and the North Node indicates what you should do in life.

His Neptune/North Node indicates a person born to act, dance, demonstrate compassion and participate in sports.  The yod in his chart gave him the ability to be a lawyer (Venus/Jupiter) and Uranus for fame, to be a revolutionary, and an advocate for change and civil rights.

Paul Robeson's Jupiter/Juno parallel signifes a person with a great need for sexual pleasure and a great need for justice and to spread the word of it in many different lands.  His Saturn/Uranus parallel indicated that he would suffer great pain (Saturn) for his revolutionary ideas about civil rights (Uranus) and a democratic world view.

Paul Robeson was a man ahead of his time, a man from the future (Jupiter/Chiron and Uranus) who came to show us how to stand up no matter the odds against a person.

The world (Uranus) has gotten a bit better in it's tolerance for equal rights.  I wonder how many African Americans even know who Paul Robeson is or what he accomplished in the selfish, fearful violent times he lived in?

During this celebration of "Black History Month" let us reflect on  the freedom we have and never take it for granted.

Richard Lee Vaughn




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