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Paul Robeson House
4951 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19139
United States

Paul Robeson House & Museum

paul robeson house

Paul Robeson, a renowned singer, actor, and activist, spent his final years in Philadelphia at 4951 Walnut Street, a historic house purchased by his sister Marian R. Forsythe and her husband, Dr. James Forsythe. In the late 1950s, the Forsythes made this three-story residence their home, where they later welcomed Robeson after the death of his wife in 1965. Despite being a retired schoolteacher, Marian, who was four years older than Robeson, provided him with loving care and created a warm and comfortable environment.

Robeson's connection to the house extended beyond familial bonds. It became a gathering place for his longtime friends, including Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, and Harry Belafonte. The house witnessed musical sessions where Charlotte Turner Bell accompanied Robeson on the piano, highlighting his favorite songs. As Robeson's health declined, the house continued to be a center of cultural activities, with him attending movies, translating articles, and engaging in discussions about various subjects.

The house, built in 1911 by architect E. Allen Wilson, holds historical significance as the residence of an artist who faced government persecution during the McCarthy era for his activism and alleged Communist leanings. After Robeson's passing in 1976 and Marian's in 1977, the house remained vacant for over 12 years until the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance acquired it in 1994. Recognizing its historical importance, the alliance restored the house, turning it into the Paul Robeson House and Museum.

Declared a historical landmark in 1991, the house stands as a testament to Robeson's legacy. It offers tours and hosts the exhibit "Paul Robeson: Up Close and Personal," showcasing record albums, paintings, books, photos, and other artifacts related to the man. Listed on the National Register for Historic Places and designated an Official Project of Save America’s Treasures, the Paul Robeson House continues to serve as a cultural hub, preserving the memory and impact of Paul Robeson for future generations.

Photo credit: Independence Visitor Center