Paul Robeson was a tireless and uncompromising advocate for civil rights and social justice. At Rutgers University, he was a 2-year All-American in football, valedictorian, and a Phi Beta Kappa. Later, he earned a law degree at Columbia University, but soon turned to singing and acting. He was especially known for his renditions of black spirituals and also his stage role in Othello. By the late 1930s, he had become very active and outspoken on behalf of racial justice, social progress, and international peace.
One of Robeson's most famous roles was the dock worker "Joe" in the musical Show Boat. He performed the role on stage and in the 1936 film version. Robeson's rendition of the song "Ol Man River" is one of the most famous ever performed on Broadway.