Paul Robeson was born in Princeton, New Jersey, on the 9th of April, 1898 to William Drew Robeson, and Maria Louisa Bustill Robeson (Wright 11). The Robeson family was no exception to the poverty stricken African American population of New Jersey (13). Robeson's father was the leader of the African Methodist Episcopal church in Westfield, New Jersey: his family was well respected. As a young boy, Robeson was fortunate enough to grow up amongst white people and was sheltered from the cruel racism the world had to offer until his late adolescent years (Contemporary Black Biography). Paul Robeson was known as "a shy kid, who did everything well, but preferred to keep in the background" (Wright 14), but Paul would not be known as "shy" later in his life, for he would grow up to become one of the most influential African American figures of the 20th century.
Art is one mode of communication that can effectively and powerfully illustrate any idea. Paul Robeson was not a man who would refuse any opportunity to express his opinion, especially through acting or singing (Contemporary Black Biography). In high school, Robeson received standing ovations for his role as Othello in the Shakespearian tragedy, Othello (Wright 18). Aside from art, dyPaul Robeson was exceptionally successful academically and athletically (17). He was the only African American player on his high school and college football team; this even furthermore highlights his exemplary well roundedness (21). Robeson's ability to entertain people and yet convince them to believe in his message is the cause for the massive impact he has had on civil rights for African Americans.
After law school, Paul Robeson was thrown into the real world, and he acquired a position at a New York law firm (Contemporary Black Biography). Although Robeson had already encountered racism in his life, its severity hit him abruptly when a stenographer refused to take down one of Robeson's memorandums "I never take dictation from a nigger" (Contemporary Black Biography).