The name is revered within the American theater, but Paul Robeson was also an outstanding football player at Rutgers University. Once called “the greatest defensive back ever to trod the gridiron,” he was named All-American in 1917 and 1918, the first Rutgers athlete ever to be so honored.

Although he went on to earn a law degree from Columbia, it was Robeson’s talent as a theater and film actor, as well as a singer, that earned him international stardom.

A man of untempered courage, Robeson’s political activism included rallying against segregation and lynching in the American South as well as his controversial support for the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin, which later led to investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Despite his pro-Communist leanings, he was a man of considerable influence and inspiration.

Photo courtesy of Hard Road to Glory, Rutgers University