From the Archives: Paul Robeson and High School Athletics

Identified by serendipity and chance, we have strong reason to believe that the photographs here depict Paul Robeson on the baseball and football teams at Somerville High School.

Somerville High School football team, circa 1913; middle row, second from right.

Somerville High School football team, circa 1913; middle row, second from right.

Robeson, who graduated from Somerville High School in 1915, went on to letter in four sports at Rutgers University.  Not only did Robeson become only the second African American All-American football player (in 1917 and again the next year), but he also won Rutgers’ oratory competition all four years, was selected Phi Beta Kappa, and spoke at his graduation as the valedictorian of his class – all portending to the Renaissance man that Robeson soon became.

Somerville High School baseball team, 1914; bottom row, second from right.

Somerville High School baseball team, 1914; bottom row, second from right.

Ample primary materials on Robeson and his wife, Eslanda Goode Robeson, can be found at the Amistad Research Center, particularly in the papers of Lillian Voorhees, Carol Brice, and Countee Cullen.  Additionally, the Center has a copy of the Robesons’ FBI file.

Posted by Andrew Salinas

From the papers of Stanley M. Douglas, who is also depicted in the above photographs.  Images may not be reproduced without permission.

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