Attorney, author, historian leaves powerful legacy for Philadelphia and the world
Dr. Edward Robinson Jr., Esq., historian and author died on Wednesday night, June 13, after a long battle with cancer. He was 94. At the time of this death, the legendary professor was surrounded in hospice by family members and friends, including his wife of 41 years, Harriette C. Robinson.
For more than six decades, Robinson served as a teacher and mentor to some of Philadelphia’s most influential people. His mentees include Rev. William Gray Jr., former congressman and president of the United Negro College Fund; current state Senator Leanna Washington; Dr. Walter Lomax, president of the Lomax Group and owner of WURD Radio; Dr. Molefi Asante, professor of history at Temple University; the d’Zert Club founders, Ali and Helen Salahuddin; Dr. Jackie Mayfield, co-founder of Comprotax, the largest Black-owned tax preparation company in America; and his nephew, the late state Representative David P. Richardson Jr.
As an author, he wrote “Journey of the Songhai People” and “Twas the Night before Kwanzaa.” He also produced CDs and DVDs such as “Black Rhapsody” and “The Songhai Princess.” As a curriculum specialist, he designed an infused African history course for the Philadelphia School District, and the secondary and group leader curricula for the highly successful d’Zert Club. At the time of his death, he was working on the crown jewel of his works, a full-length motion picture called, “Whispers of the Medallion.”
“For generations, Robinson was directed toward one goal: to effect a positive change of attitude toward the ancestral value of people of African descent by the total world society through dramatically exposing the beauty, grandeur and sophistication of ancient Egypt and the Songhai Empire,” said protégée Bob Lott, president and executive producer of Teamwork Productions, Inc.
As an attorney and entrepreneur, Robinson was the past-president of the Provident Home Life Insurance Company, a former member of the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank, deputy secretary of the State of Pennsylvania and assistant managing director of the City of Philadelphia.
“In many respects, he was a Renaissance man,” recalled state Senator Vincent Hughes. “His intellectual capacity was overwhelming. His knowledge of the true contributions and the true history of all peoples, especially Africans in the Diaspora, was encyclopedic. Hearing him retell the story of the Songhai people, which was a particular focus of his, was mesmerizing — and it was factual. This was not a made-up story; this is documented history of the incredible contributions that African people made long before colonization. He and his family have a rich tradition of social justice and making sure that African people throughout the Diaspora were recognized for the significant contributions they made. Obviously, it always draws me back to his nephew, David Richardson, who I miss on a daily basis. I’m thankful to have lived in a time that Ed Robinson was around.
At age 80, Robinson produced a “Tri-Racial Comparative Time Line” which was commissioned by the national Keystone Mercy Health Corporation. He has produced numerous documentaries, including a series sponsored by 7-Eleven Stores (Southland Corporation). He has created an art gallery consisting of “The 100 Most Notable Africans and African Americans” together with a 400-word biography of each.
Robinson’s legacy included the live recording of a 1970s Black history lecture he gave at North Philadelphia’s (then all-girls) William Penn High School. In a voice filled with admiration and respect, his corrective history lesson began with the salutation, “My beautiful young Queens....” There was a moment of shocked silence as the students took in the conservatively dressed, middle-aged business executive, and then realizing the regal greeting was really meant for them, the Queens applauded delightedly. The live performance of Robinson’s continued fight for Black survival was captured for posterity on the spoken word collection entitled, “Black Rhapsody.”
“‘Black Rhapsody’” was the conduit that led into everything,” explained Black studies scholar and author Charles L. Blockson. “He was able to penetrate the system and the scholars. The teachers couldn’t do it, and he was an ally to the African-American teachers who were down there trying to start the programs when “Black Rhapsody” came out, he took it all over. The main thing was that he was committed to music. He realized that music could penetrate the students of all levels — from African-American students as well as adults. He went into the spirituals and told the story of our history from music — which is a part of our history.”
While encouraging an auditorium full of spellbound students, “Brother Ed,” as he was called, proceeded to demolish pseudo-scientific “theories” of Black inferiority and white superiority. Robinson discussed distorted history books and its effects today on Black and white Americans. The record album of his memorable speech at William Penn High was played throughout the African-American community, and even garnered airtime on commercial, college and alternative radio stations around the globe.
“I remember how powerful and imaginative he was. He made you use your imagination when he talked about the history,” recalled 107.9 WRNB FM “Philly Speaks” host E. Steven Collins. “Dr. Robinson was a lion in the true sense of what a lion represents: He roared — he had a tremendous impact on young people, as witnessed by his tremendous speech at William Penn High School. He was a visionary. He was a mentor for hundreds and hundreds of men, Black men in particular. You understood why the late, great David Richardson was so powerful because he impacted Dave. He impacted a lot of young men in his time to stand up and recognize how much strength we have as African-American men.”
The Robinsons were longtime members of A.M.E.Union Church and celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary together on June 9. Robinson’s brother, Calvin Robinson, and his son, Edward W. Robinson III, preceded him in death. In addition to his wife, Robinson is survived by his daughters, Pamela Robinson-Johnson and Michelle Harman; sister, Elaine A. Richardson; nine grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren. For more information regarding Dr. Robinson, visit http://www.drrobinson.org/.