College Republicans want to scratch the name of the late Paul Robeson off the library at the Rutgers-Camden campus because he was a commie, a course of action that sounds a lot like Joe McCarthy in 21st Century New Jersey.
Fellas, how would you like it if you got your law degree and then you couldn’t hold a job at a firm because secretaries wouldn’t take dictation from you? That’s what happened to Robeson, a Columbia Law School grad.
This is a man who had the grades to go to Princeton but couldn’t because he was black, who not only went to Rutgers as an undergrad – the third African-American in the school’s history and the only black on campus when he attended – but was valedictorian of his class.
Whether or not you agree with his political views – and they were volatile, we grant you – Robeson’s story is that of a great man, a great native New Jerseyan, and as such falls much more in the realm of pure tragedy than simple ideology. If Robeson’s story is one of intense human suffering – both lived and interpreted on the stage and in song – indeed it includes those who suffered under Josef Stalin, a man Robeson wrongly lauded.
But that’s tragic – in the truest sense of the word – that decision by Robeson – so discouraged with America – to seek out an answer in Soviet Russia. Rather than eradicating Robeson’s name from a building that rightly pays homage to his incredible legacy as a purveyor of the arts and culture and humanties, we would do better to look deeper – at the roots of that tragic suffering.