Walk into the last house where Paul Robeson lived and you can feel his spirit. You can sense it in the piano where he sang “Ol Man River” in his deep baritone voice, in the bedroom where he laid his head to rest, and in the walls that could hardly contain his presence.
Now you can experience the complete Paul Robeson on stage, in movies and through song in a wonderful exhibit titled “Paul Robeson: Up Close and Personal” at the West Philadelphia home where he spent the last 10 years of his life with his sister Marian Forsythe.
The exhibit is a showcase of photos of people and places in his life, artifacts, books, paintings, life-size historical panels and record albums. It also shows Robeson’s Philadelphia connection – the Bustill family on his mother’s side, one of whose forebears made bread for George Washington’s troops at Valley Forge. See photos of Robeson with a young Julian Bond and Jackie Kennedy. See him celebrating his 75th birthday in this home.
The exhibit was curated by Vernoca L. Michael and Sherry L. Howard. Michael and her family were close to the Robesons, and she has memorable stories about her “Uncle Paul.” Howard writes the blog Auction Finds (myauctionfinds.com).
This exhibit shines a light on the man who used both his speaking and singing voice in praise of those who had long been silenced.