Paul Robeson was born on April 19, 1898, in Princeton, New Jersey. He was an athlete, civil rights activist, actor, football player, singer, and lawyer. He moved with his father to Somerville when he was six after his mother died. Robeson earned a scholarship at Rutgers University, the third African American to do so. Paul received top honors for his debate skills, got 15 letters in four varsity sports, and became class valedictorian. He then went for three years at Columbia University’s Law School. Paul taught Latin and played pro football on the weekends. He was married for 40 years to a fellow Columbia University student, Eslanda Goode. They had a son, Paul Robeson Jr.
He worked as a lawyer for a brief time then turned his talents to the stage after experiencing severe racism at his firm. Robeson starred in three plays and a movie from 1924 to 1928. Robeson spoke up against racism regularly in Europe where his acting career majorly grew. He supported Pan-Africanism and was involved with world politics. He sang to the Allied Troops in WWII on a regular basis. He visited the Soviet Union many times which led to rumors about him being a communist during the Cold War. In 1948 he was considered for a U.S. vice presidential spot on Henry A. Wallace’s Progressive Party ticket. Paul’s autobiography, Here I Stand, was published in 1958. His family moved back to the United States in 1963 and his wife died two years later. Robeson died of a stroke on January 23, 1976. He was 77 years old. In past years people have written biographies about him, trying to not let all his accomplishments become unnoticed by future generations.
Michael Jackson was born on August 29, 1958 in Gary, Indiana. He was the lead singer in a family group, the Jackson 5. At the age of 13, he launched his solo career in addition with working with the Jackson 5. Michael’s 1982 album, Thriller, had 10 top hits and became the best-selling album in history. He traveled around the country with his brothers, touring their last album together,Victory. He had three children then produced a new album, Invincible, his first album in over a decade.
His song, Billie Jean, was the first music video to air on MTV by a black artist. He has sold 300 million records worldwide. Jackson’s musical influence in America was astronomical, in 1993 the largest audience in US history tuned in to watch Michael perform at Superbowl XXVII.
He currently holds several Guinness World Records, including highest annual earnings for a pop star, best selling album of all time for Thriller, and he won the most Grammy Awards in a year (he won eight in 1984). The record for most Grammys won in a single year for the women goes to Beyonce (she won six in 2010). Michael died on June 25, 2009. He left behind a world full of fans and a lasting legacy.