PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Paul Robeson was one of the most famous artists and activists of his time, and now a West Philadelphia street bears his name.
The West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance coordinated a street renaming ceremony and community block party for the occasion on Friday.
"At the height of his career, he was the most famous, the most wealthy, the most well-known African American man in the world," said Janice Sykes-Ross, the executive director of the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.
The street renaming ceremony coincided with more than a week of celebrations honoring Robeson's 125th birthday.
Robeson was beloved, but not always embraced, experts say. His career was tarnished by U.S. government investigations and allegations of ties to the communist party, as he became an outspoken advocate of civil rights.
"He took a lot of hits from his own country for his activism," said Philadelphia Councilmember Jamie Gauthier of the city's Third District, where Robeson's home was located.
Gauthier introduced a resolution to rename the 4900 block of Walnut Street "Paul Robeson Way."
The street renaming is a tribute to a true Renaissance man. Robeson was an artist, an attorney, an athlete (the first Black football player at Rutgers University), and an activist.
"He sacrificed," said Sykes-Ross. "He was doing civil rights long before the 60s, he was doing civil rights in the 30s and the 40s."
Robeson's legacy aligns with the mission of the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.
"We used art as a way to bring about social justice and change," said Sykes-Ross.
The organization worked for years to get to the 4900 block of Walnut Street, which is where Robeson's home is located, renamed in his honor.
Friday's celebration drew people who were inspired by him and those who knew him personally.
"My mother and his sister were very good friends," said Laura Stewart of West Philadelphia. "I told my granddaughter about it and she was so thrilled. She said, 'Granny, I don't believe you met Paul Robeson!'"
"Oh yes, I did!" Stewart replied.
She first met Robeson in the West Philadelphia house where he spent his last years.
"I know he was born in Princeton, New Jersey, but he claimed Philly as his home," said Sykes-Ross.
That home, which was owned by Robeson's sister, is now on a street that honors his legacy.
"To really finally say, 'We recognize this man," said Sykes-Ross.
The Paul Robeson home is now a museum at 4951 Walnut St in West Philadelphia. It's open to the public Thursday through Saturday. You can find more information here: https://www.paulrobesonhouse.org/