Robeson House's 125th Birthday Celebration

Saturday, April 8, 2023 - 8:00am - Saturday, April 15, 2023 - 5:00pm
Locations Vary
United States

Paul Robeson was called the “tallest tree in the forest,” a description that was both literal & figurative.

He was also called a Renaissance man: football star, singer, actor, lawyer, social activist, orator and linguist. So how could a man with so much talent get lost in American history? Only by design.

Robeson fearlessly used his bass-baritone voice for both singing and speaking for the rights of Black people in America and oppressed people all over the world. For his advocacy of those considered outsiders, he became a pariah in his own country. 

This year, the Paul Robeson House & Museum in Philadelphia is pulling Robeson out of the shadows with an impressive series of special guests and events to celebrate the man who Coretta Scott King, at his 1976 funeral, proclaimed was “buried alive.”

Our headliner is Sweet Honey in the Rock, a legendary group whose songs and message are in the same vein as Robeson’s. Harry Belafonte, who considered Robeson his mentor, is the honorary chair of the 125th Birthday Celebration of Paul Robeson. Actor Danny Glover is the honorary co-chair. The celebration is being held from April 8-15, 2023, in conjunction with the Paul Robeson Alliance, a collection of Robeson-related organizations from across the country. Robeson was born on April 9, 1898.

The celebration includes a premier gala with guest speaker Gina Belafonte, an activist in the mold of both her father and Robeson, a panel discussion on Robeson’s activism, and bus trips to Robeson’s birthplace in Princeton, NJ, and the family church in Harlem, NY. 

Robeson has a strong bond with Philadelphia. He came to the city and the area often as a singer, speaker and stage actor. As his health waned, he spent the last 10 years of his life in Philadelphia – from 1966 to 1976 - under the watchful eye of his older sister Marian Forsythe. 

The Paul Robeson House & Museum has organized a series of events for this occasion:

April 15, 2023 – a premier gala to spotlight Robeson and his social activism will be held on Saturday, April 15, 2023, at the Penn Live Arts/Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. The musical headliner is Sweet Honey in the Rock. Guest speaker is Gina Belafonte, CEO of, a social-justice organization founded by Harry Belafonte. An actor and director, she has produced documentaries with her father. She appeared in the 2018 movie “BlacKkKlansman,” directed by Spike Lee, and other network TV shows. 

April 14, 2023 - a panel discussion on Robeson’s radicalism headlined by Fredrika Newton, co-founder of the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation in Oakland and a former member of the Black Panther Party. Huey co-founded the party in 1966 with Bobby Seale. Fredrika is his widow. Others on the panel are local columnist/commentator/author Solomon Jones and Michael Africa Jr., a second-generation MOVE member, activist, writer and podcaster. Africa is spearheading an independent project to digitize the archives of MOVE. This event will be held at the Historic Belmont Mansion.

April 8, 2023 – Bus trip from Philadelphia to Princeton, NJ, Robeson’s birthplace, with a walking tour of the historic Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood where his family lived. This was a neighborhood of Black businesses, professional and skilled crafts people, churches, a cemetery and a school. Robeson’s family lived there for nearly 20 years before he was born in 1898. He was three years old when the family moved out of the neighborhood. 

April 9, 2023 – Bus trip from Philadelphia to Mother A.M.E. Zion Church in Harlem, NY, for Easter services. April 9 is Robeson’s birthday. Mother Zion was the Robeson family church for 50 years. Robeson’s brother the Rev. Benjamin (Ben) Robeson was a pastor at the church.

February-April 2023 - Student Essay Contest administered by the Walnut Hill Civic Association, a longtime supporter of the Robeson House. 

Community Development