Shown in this 1949 photo are Hillsboro-native and Nobel prize-winning novelist Peal S. Buck (left), and African-American writer and civil rights advocate Eslanda Goode Robeson (1896-1965). In 1948, Buck and Robeson co-authored American Argument, in which they shared their dissatisfaction with the position of women, poor quality of education, human relations, and sex codes in the United States.
Robeson was born in Washington, DC, and earned a degree in chemistry from Columbia University. She became the first African-American to head the surgical pathology department at the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Following her marriage to singer and actor Paul Robeson, she studied at the London School of Economics and eventually received a Ph.D. in anthropology from Hartford Seminary. She made several trips to Africa, became an advocate for African independence, and wrote African Journey in which she argued for black people to take pride in their African heritage.
For speaking out against racism in America and visiting Russia, the Robesons were brought before the U.S. House of Representatives Un-American Activities Committee in 1956. The committee revoked their passports for five years until they were reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court.
While living in Paris, Robeson and Alderson-born Ada “Bricktop” Smith, cabaret singer and nightclub owner, shared the same orbit of friends while they found freedom and opportunities for African-American women not found in the United States.
Photo: Courtesy of West Virginia University Regional History Center.
Sources: Out of the Shadows: The Political Writings of Eslanda Goode Robeson by Robert Shaffer; The Modernist Review; Paul Robeson House and Museum.