Monday, 18 May 2009

Maria Louisa Bustill



Maria Louisa Bustill Robeson (November 8, 1853 – January 20, 1904) was a Quaker schoolteacher; the mother of Paul Robeson; and the wife of the Reverend William Drew Robeson of Witherspoon Church in Princeton, New Jersey.

She was born in 1853 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Charles Hicks Bustill (1816-1890) and Emily Robinson (c1815-before 1860). She was of mixed Igbo African, Lenni-Lenape Native American, and American Quaker descent.

In the 1870s she attended Lincoln University. There she met and married William Drew Robeson I (1845-1918), around 1873, and they had the following children: Gertrude Lascet Robeson (1880) who died as an infant; William Drew Robeson II (1881-?) b. November 1881, who was a physician in Washington, District of Columbia; Marian M. Robeson (1894-1977) b. December 1, 1894, who married a Forsythe and moved to Philadelphia; Benjamin Robeson (1894-1966) b. September 1894, who was a reverend at the Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Harlem; J.B. Reeve Robeson (1886-?) aka Reed Robeson, b. March 1886 who moved to Detroit and may have worked at a hotel before he died in poverty; and Paul LeRoy Robeson better known as Paul Robeson (1898-1976) who was an orator, singer and actor. Another child died at birth, but the name is not known. In 1880 William and Maria were living on Witherspoon Street in Princeton, New Jersey. Maria is described as a mulatto.


In 1904 she was nearly blind and she was burned in a kitchen accident when an ember from the stove ignited her clothes on fire. She died several days later with burns over 80% of her body. She was buried in Princeton Cemetery.

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