Campus & Community

Paul Robeson Biography by Stevens Professor Celebrates One of New Jersey’s Most Important Sons

Stevens Professor Lindsey Swindall gives a presentation on Paul Robeson in Princeton
Stevens Professor Lindsey Swindall in Princeton to celebrate the birthday of Paul Robeson. Photo by Ed Kaz.

Since the September 2015 release of the paperback edition of her biography Paul Robeson: A Life of Activism and Art, Stevens Professor Lindsey Swindall has been traveling to share the significance of Robeson’s legacy. As noted in a Huffington Post article, Swindall’s book is part of a recent resurgence in public interest about Robeson. “I’m really excited about the release of the paperback edition,” said Swindall, “because the price is very affordable and I hope it will help make Robeson’s story accessible to the broadest audience possible.” Swindall has been reaching out to audiences since the book’s release by developing a multimedia program on Robeson that includes a collaboration with New York City actor Grant Cooper. Swindall explained, “I wanted to find a way to bring Robeson’s words to life and working with an actor enables the spirit of the artist to really shine.”

In October Swindall and Cooper performed at a book signing event at the Samuel C. Williams Library at Stevens. They also took their program to Robeson’s alma mater, Rutgers University, to be part of Paul Robeson Week in December. Berklee College of Music in Boston invited them to do two days of events focusing on Robeson’s musical career in March. Most recently the team went to Princeton, New Jersey, Robeson’s birthplace, to honor his birthday, which is April 9, 1898. The Arts Council of Princeton hosts an annual birthday celebration and Swindall was “thrilled” to participate this year. “The fact that we had a packed auditorium on a chilly and rainy April afternoon speaks to the love and warmth that so many people in the Princeton area feel for Robeson,” Swindall remarked. 

The most gratifying part of the day for Swindall was interacting with people who were touched by Robeson. Most memorable, was meeting Laura Kruskal who shared the powerful story of being injured at the Peekskill concert in 1949 when vigilantes violently attacked audience members leaving a Robeson performance. “It was very moving to listen to her story and to see how her own life had been impacted by Robeson’s legacy,” said Swindall.  “I will never forget meeting her.”