Mayor Jim Cahill: Robeson’s achievements “stemmed directly from his education” at Rutgers

From left to right: Principal of Paul Robeson Community School for the Arts Kelly Mooring, Mayor Jim Cahill, New Brunswick City Council Vice President Suzanne M. Sicora Ludwig, Salvador Mena, Superintendent of New Brunswick Schools Aubrey Johnson, students from the Paul Robeson Community School for the Arts, Felicia McGinty, Pastor Conway Cornelius Johnson, Council Member Glenn Fleming, Keisha Dabrowski and David Jones celebrate the unveiling of the newly named Paul Robeson Boulevard.
Photo: Courtesy of Mel Evans

"It has been a long time coming to bring Paul Robeson back to the City of New Brunswick"- Felicia McGinty, Executive Vice Chancellor of Administration and Planning, Rutgers University-New Brunswick

The City of New Brunswick dedicated Paul Robeson Boulevard, the busy thoroughfare renamed for the acclaimed scholar, athlete, actor, singer and global activist who graduated from Rutgers 100 years ago.

Mayor Jim Cahill led the ceremony at the corner of Baldwin Street and Robeson Boulevard near the entrance to Feaster Park, where the city plans to install a sculpture of Robeson.

In addition to the installations by the city, Rutgers University–New Brunswick recently dedicated Paul Robeson Plaza on the university’s College Avenue campus. At the university’s 2019 Commencement, President Robert Barchi presented a replica of the 1973 doctorate of humane letters given to Robeson and hailed him as Rutgers’ most gifted and accomplished alumnus, a Phi Beta Kappa scholar, an All-American athlete, a world-renowned singer and actor, a spellbinding orator and a passionate activist and humanitarian.

“It has been a long time coming to bring Paul Robeson back to the City of New Brunswick,” said Felicia McGinty, executive vice chancellor of administration and planning at Rutgers University–New Brunswick and chair of the university’s Paul Robeson Centennial Committee. “We celebrate with you long beyond the centennial of his graduation.”

The New Brunswick City Council unanimously approved the renaming of the street, formerly known as Commercial Avenue, concurrent with Rutgers–New Brunswick’s yearlong celebration of the centennial of Robeson’s 1919 graduation. Despite enduring racism, Robeson achieved fame as a performing artist before finding his calling as an activist for the rights and dignity of African Americans and oppressed peoples across the world.

“We celebrate the 100th anniversary of Robeson’s graduation from Rutgers, but we need to be mindful of the obstacles he overcame to become the third African-American student to graduate from Rutgers,” Cahill said, adding that Robeson’s work to “shape the world for the better … stemmed directly from his education” at the university.

C. Roy Epps, president and CEO of the Civic League of Greater New Brunswick, shown here at the Sept. 2018 groundbreaking of Rutgers’ Paul Robeson Plaza, led the effort to rename Commercial Avenue in Paul Robeson’s honor.
Photo: Nick Romanenko

Salvador Mena, Rutgers–New Brunswick’s vice chancellor for student affairs, noted another important Robeson-related milestone: “In addition to our centennial celebration of Paul Robeson’s graduation, this year also marks the 50th anniversary of Rutgers University–New Brunswick’s Paul Robeson Cultural Center. It is a fitting occasion to have Paul Robeson become a permanent part of the New Brunswick landscape.”

The Paul Robeson Cultural Center is one of the first black cultural centers on a college campus in the United States.  

C. Roy Epps, president and CEO of the Civic League of Greater New Brunswick and a member of Rutgers’ Robeson Centennial Committee, led the initiative to rename Commercial Avenue in Robeson’s honor. The dedication ceremony represented a collaboration between the City of New Brunswick, the Civic League of Greater New Brunswick, the New Brunswick Board of Education, Rutgers University, Holy Family Parish and Sharon Baptist Church.

This year marks the centennial anniversary of Robeson’s graduation from Rutgers College in 1919. In recognition, the Rutgers community is honoring his achievements in a yearlong celebration featuring lectures, performances, art exhibitions and more. Learn more about the celebration by visiting or by following #Robeson100 on social media.