"Paul Robeson taught me this lesson. When I met Paul, I was a foundry worker and he was a famous college student at Rutgers and an All-American halfback. His brother was a pastor in Bayonne and Paul used to go visiting with us on Sunday afternoons. He would sing, and we would sing, and all of us would have fun.
“Years later when Paul went into the theatre and on the concert stage, I often went to see him perform. Then, by standing invitation, I would go backstage. Paul, surrounded by celebrities and the press, would look over the crowd and see me—the foundry worker. He would excuse himself and say, 'Ernie, come here. Gee it's good to see you, fellow. Stay around and we’ll talk.’
“Time and again Paul went out of his way to make me feel ‘You’re somebody.’ He taught me the dignity of ‘the least of these.’ This has been my guide. The need is to extend this concept so that it is embraced by the Black middle class."