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Gerald Horne speaks on Paul Robeson's legacy during distinguished lecture at U.

Gerald Horne, the Moores Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, spoke at Alexander Library on the College Avenue campus about Paul Robeson's achievements. – Photo by Adam Ahmadi

On Thursday, the Department of Africana Studies hosted its annual Paul Robeson Distinguished Lecture, featuring Gerald Horne, the Moores Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston.

The lecture is part of a series of University events celebrating the 125th birthday of Paul Robeson on April 9. Robeson graduated from Rutgers in 1919 and went on to become a professional football player, singer, actor and civil rights activist.

Other events in the series include a birthday celebration at the Robeson Plaza on Rutgers Day, a walking tour of Voorhees Mall on the College Avenue campus and a screening of the film "The Proud Valley," in which Robeson starred.

Edward Ramsamy, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Africana Studies, introduced the lecture by describing Robeson's contributions to the arts and athletics as well as his core values.

Jim Savage, the president of the Rutgers class of 1971, said he coordinated the series' events alongside the Rutgers African-American Alumni Alliance and the Paul Robeson House and Museum in Philadelphia. He had previously led the campaign to build the Paul Robeson Plaza near Voorhees Mall.

"(Robeson) was a true renaissance man if ever there was one," he said. "I describe his life journey as being as if he ran and won an Olympic marathon race while carrying a 50-pound weight."

Savage said his highlight from organizing these events was seeing the reactions from attendees and teaching people about Robeson's experience upholding civil rights. While he and his colleagues plan to hold more Robeson-related events next year, there will not be as many as this year.

"There were those who did all they could to erase Robeson from American history. To a large extent, they succeeded," Savage said. "(But) there are those of us who are determined to bring his remarkable life and legacy back into the light, where it deservedly belongs."

During the lecture, Horne, who has authored more than 30 books about civil rights and Left-wing history, covered Robeson's life as an activist, from attending Rutgers to being blacklisted by Hollywood.

He said Robeson's reputation was diminished in the U.S. at the height of the Red Scare due to his Left-wing beliefs and visits he made to the Soviet Union in the past.

On student engagement with Robeson, Horne mentioned a mural of Robeson in Washington, D.C., that was recently defaced. He said the artwork would have a rightful place at the University and help incoming students discover Robeson's legacy.

Savage, in agreement, said that the Rutgers community should learn from and engage with Paul Robeson's life and legacy.

"(Robeson), in my mind and in the minds of many, is the most distinguished Rutgers graduate in our 257-year history," Savage said. "Rutgers once had a slogan that read: 'Jersey Roots, Global Reach!' This phrase perfectly describes (Robeson) in many respects. Born and raised in New Jersey with a powerful global presence."

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article’s headline mistakenly referred to Gerald Horne as David Horne.

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