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VALLEY FOCUS | Valley Glen

College Celebration to Honor Paul Robeson

April 06, 1998|TOM BECKER

Paul Robeson was an internationally acclaimed singer and actor, civil rights activist, scholar and champion athlete and yet most students at Valley College pleaded ignorance when asked who he was.

On Wednesday that should change when the college hosts its "Paul Robeson Centennial Celebration," marking the 100th anniversary of Robeson's birth.

"[The centennial] provides us with an opportunity to educate our students and celebrate Paul Robeson's accomplishments," said Yasmin Delahoussaye, dean of students.

"It's a golden opportunity to honor one of the most gifted African Americans ever."

The program includes a biographical film on Robeson, written and produced by a member of the school's cinema department.

Other highlights include a discussion of Robeson's political views and how they fit in with popular views of the day, an appreciation of Robeson's musical performances and a showing of the 1935 version of "Showboat" in which Robeson made his most legendary recording of "Old Man River."

Members of the English department will also read selected works from the school's essay contest on Robeson's life. The winner will receive $100 and the second-place winner $50, Delahoussaye said.

"He was such a gifted man who contributed in so many ways," Delahoussaye said. "It's a shame not more people know that."

The lack of recognition partly stems from Robeson's blacklisting in the 1950s during the infamous McCarthy hearings. Robeson, like many scholars of his time, lauded the Soviet experiment and was eventually cut off from the entertainment industry because of it.

In addition to his musical and acting talents, Robeson was a Phi Beta Kappa and valedictorian of the class of 1919 at Rutgers University and a graduate of the Columbia University School of Law.

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