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Famed jazz musician, political activist Paul Robeson’s childhood home in historic black community of Princeton, NJ to be restored

PRINCETON, New Jersey (WABC) — Paul Robeson was a giant of the 20th century, an honors graduate of Rutgers University who played in the NFL while earning a law degree from Columbia.

Robeson went on to become a star of stage and screen.

His voice echoes down through the generations with songs like “Ol’ Man River,” and “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.”

Robeson was also a prominent political activist who fought for civil rights and supported worker’s rights a hundred years ago.

Now, there’s a push to restore his birthplace in Princeton, N.J.

Robenson’s childhood home is located in the Jackson-Witherspoon neighborhood, a historically Black community where residents are determined to preserve their own legacy.

The house, dating from the 1840s, is down the street from The Witherspoon Presbyterian Church where Paul Robeson’s father, a former slave, preached for more than 20 years.

Reverend Lukata Mjumbe is the current leader of the congregation, and he says the restoration project will help keep the community connected to its roots.

“It is something that is not only special, but if we don’t hold onto it and reclaim it, and remember it, we’ll lose it,” said Mjumbe. “So that’s why we’re committed to doing what we’re doing.”

As the restoration removes layers of renovations done to the home over the years, workers are finding artifacts that shed light on the community’s history.

“It was as if history reached down and touched and said, ‘hello’ here we are,'” said Architect Kelvin Wilkes, who is providing his services for free. “And, once we get to the construction portion of the project, we are doing that work just for the cost of labor and materials with no mark-up or profit.”

The project is a labor of love, and a testament to the value of working together towards a common goal.

“The community that has come together to rebuild and restore the Robeson house is rebuilding a legacy: a legacy of commitment to freedom, to justice, to development, to self-determination,” said Mjumbe.

The structure stands as a gateway to an African American community that has existed since before The Revolutionary War.

If you’d like to support the restoration of this historic home visit the Paul Robenson House Project’s website to donate.

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