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Short biography
Robert Starobin was a "Red Diaper Baby," who was exposed to socialist politics early in life. He was influenced by his father, Joseph, and his mother, Norma, who was a dancer. He attended private progressive grade schools and graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1957. He attended Cornell for undergraduate studies, where he was editor of the student newspaper. Following college, he hitchhiked across the country to California, where he met and married Elsa within 3 weeks. He attended graduate school in history at UC Berkeley and participated in the Free Speech Movement, the SDS and the black power movement. His 1968 dissertation from UC Berkeley eventually became his major book, Industrial Slavery in the Old South, published in 1970. In 1966 he joined the history faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and became involved with reforming the history department and with student protest groups. He pioneered the first black studies course at UW-Madison in 1968. RS published articles and spoke on his research interests in black history and the black power movement, but by the end of the 1960s, he felt unaccepted by the Black Panthers and by black academics because he was white. His marriage with Elsa broke up and she moved back to California in 1968. In 1969, he returned to Cornell for a post-doctoral fellowship and again became involved with protest groups on campus. At the end of the year, he resigned from UW-Madison and accepted a teaching position at SUNY-Binghampton. He committed suicide in 1971.
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