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Lafayette’s conference on Paul Robeson closed Saturday with stirring performances that capped three days of dynamic presentations and conversation about and celebration of Robeson’s history and development as an intellectual.

Attendees of the conference’s various sessions totaled more than 1,000 people. Keynote talks by Paul Robeson Jr. and Randall Robinson drew capacity audiences to Kirby Hall of Civil Rights.

The conference featured scholarly presentations on a range of topics relating to Robeson, from his work in theater and films to his influence on the U.S. civil rights movement.

The conference included the awarding of Lafayette’s inaugural Paul Robeson Humanitarian Award to Maurice Bennett ’06, an economics and business major from Philadelphia.

“The rich diversity and complexity of Paul Robeson’s life is an important prism through which the American national identity can be contemplated. Robeson’s life is a prime example of a lifelong quest in the exploration of personal and national identity issues. Not only did he achieve noteworthy excellence in the performance art and with his scholarship, but he was also an influential, and controversial, political and social activist, especially on civil rights and civil liberties issues,” said Fluney Hutchinson, dean of studies, in presenting the award to Bennett in a ceremony with Paul Robeson Jr.

“As an academic institution, Lafayette highly values these ideals and sees them as the best example of lifelong liberal learning. This is why we have decided to honor Maurice, a standout in the classroom, on the football field, and as a mentor and humanist, as the student who best represents the ideal of Robeson’s life.”

A production entitled “The Whole World in His Hands,” written and narrated by Jewel Robinson, closed out the conference Saturday evening at the Williams Center for the Arts. Alvy Powell performed many spirituals and other songs that Robeson sang. Alumni, students, and guests enjoyed a dinner, sponsored by the alumni association, prior to the program.

A Saturday afternoon celebration of Robeson’s Here I Stand featured the Lafayette Concert Choir in addition to a reader’s theater production of Robeson’s autobiography. Also performing were local youth – including David Aaron Thompson, Cyrus Thompson, the Daughters of Zion dance ensemble of Second Baptist Church in Bethlehem, and Monique Saunders of Greater Shiloh Church in Easton – and singer Carl Dorsey of Easton.

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