William Drew Robeson, Reverend (1844-1918) Father of Paul Robeson; Presbyterian Reverend at Witherspoon Church in Princeton, New Jersey (b. July 1844, Robeson Plantation, Cross Road Township, Martin County, North Carolina, USA - d. May 17, 1918, Somerville, Somerset County, New Jersey, USA)
William was born in 1845 to Benjamin and Sabra who were slaves on the Robeson plantation near Raleigh, North Carolina.
When he was 15 years old, William escaped on the Underground Railroad to Philadelphia.
He married Maria Louisa Bustill (1853-1904).
Together they had the following children: William Drew Robeson II who was a physician in Washington, District of Columbia; Benjamin Congleton Robeson (1894-1966), a reverend in Harlem who married Frances Elizabeth Cline; Marian Margaret Robeson who married William Forsythe, a physician; and Paul LeRoy Bustill Robeson (1898-1976) who was an orator, singer and actor.
Amanda V. Costello writes: "William Drew Robeson, was born into slavery on the Roberson plantation in Cross Road Township, Martin County, North Carolina. In 1860, at fifteen years of age, William Drew made his escape, found his way north across the Maryland border through Pennsylvania, and served in the Union Army as a laborer. With the close of the Civil War, William Drew Robeson managed to acquire a full education and obtained a degree in Sacred Theology from Lincoln University in Philadelphia, 1876. While studying there, he met Maria Louisa Bustill, a teacher from a family with an impressive legacy of productivity. In 1878, her father Cyrus helped to found The Free Africa Society, the first black self-help organization in America. Her family consisted of abolitionists, journalists, doctors and activists. And while their achievements would become a part of Paul Robeson's heritage, he would almost always identify with the more modest lives of his father's side of the family."
Princeton, New Jersey:
William and Maria appear on the 1880 census living on Witherspoon Street in Princeton, New Jersey. Maria is described as a mulatto.
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