Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson
Graduation Year: Class of 1915
Induction Year: 1993

Paul Robeson, graduate of Somerville High School class of 1915, is one of Somerville’s best known graduates. Known by his classmates for his “sweetness and modesty”, his “warm, easy-going, laid back” temperament, and his “refined, clean-minded, wholesome” qualities. His range of gifts spanned sports, studies, singing, and debating.

In baseball he played the positions of shortstop and catcher with equal facility. In basketball, his height and dexterity made him :good at stopping a man”. He also ran track and played tennis. It was his skill as a full back, however, that brought him the most attention. In a game against Phillipsburg (known as a rough bunch of kids and outweighing Somerville ten pounds per man) the opposition “lay for him” and piled on- but the attack energized him and he scored a touchdown. Paul graduated Valedictorian of his class.

Paul Robeson was the first black football player to ever be on the Rutgers College Football Team. He towered above the other players at six feet two inches tall. Not only was he recognized as a top football player at Rutgers, he also graduated as valedictorian of his class at Rutgers. He entered Columbia Law School in 1919 and graduated first in his class from there as well.

Robeson starred in various plays and movies such as Emperor Jones, All God’s Chillun Got Wings, Body and Soul, Black Boy, Showboat, Othello, Borderline, Sanders of the River, Song of Freedom, Jericho, King Solomon’s Mines and Planet in the Sun.