Paul Leroy Robeson, born in New Jersey in 1898, earned an academic scholarship to Rutgers College in 1915. After graduation, Robeson went on to Columbia Law School. He paid his fees there by playing with the National Football League for three years. However, after briefly working in a law firm, Robeson turned to theater. He acted in films and on stage, and sang in concert, winning international acclaim. Outspoken in his criticism of racism, Robeson was blacklisted in the 1940s and 1950s because he refused to repudiate his leftist affiliation. Nonetheless, the NAACP gathered this large group of people to celebrate their presentation of the Spingarn Medal to Robeson for his achievements in 1945.