Here is the text of the email: Here’s something you probably don’t know about Albert Einstein.
In 1946, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist traveled to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the alma mater of Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall and the first school in America to grant college degrees to blacks.
At Lincoln, Einstein gave a speech in which he called racism “a disease of white people,” and added, “I do not intend to be quiet about it.” He also received an honorary degree and gave a lecture on relativity to Lincoln students.
In fact, many significant details are missing from the numerous studies of Einstein’s life and work, most of them having to do with Einstein’s opposition to racism and his relationships with African Americans.
Einstein continued to support progressive causes through the 1950s, when the pressure of anti-Communist witch hunts made it dangerous to do so. Another example of Einstein using his prestige to help a prominent African American occurred in 1951, when the 83-year-old W.E.B. Du Bois, a founder of the NAACP, was indicted by the federal government for failing to register as a “foreign agent” as a consequence of circulating the pro-Soviet Stockholm Peace Petition. Einstein offered to appear as a character witness for Du Bois, which convinced the judge to drop the case.
In the wake of the monumental effort to digitize Einstein’s life and genius for the masses, let’s hope that more of us will acknowledge Einstein’s greatness as a champion of human and civil rights for African-Americans as one of his greatest contributions to the world.
Origins: The e-mail reproduced above is an excerpt from a 2007 Harvard University Gazette article about a talk given by Fred Jerome and Rodger Taylor, authors of the 2006 book Einstein on Race and Racism. As related in that article, Jerome and Taylor undertook their effort in order to “recognize and correct many significant details missing from the numerous studies of Einstein’s life and work, most of them having to do with Einstein’s opposition to racism and his relationships with African Americans:
Nearly fifty years after his death, Albert Einstein remains one of America’s foremost cultural icons. A thicket of materials, ranging from scholarly to popular, have been written, compiled, produced, and published about his life and his teachings. Among the ocean of Einsteinia — scientific monographs, biographies, anthologies, bibliographies, calendars, postcards, posters, and Hollywood films — however, there is a peculiar void when it comes to the connection that the brilliant scientist had with the African American community. Virtually nowhere is there any mention of his relationship with Paul Robeson, despite Einstein’s close friendship with him, or W.E.B. Du Bois, despite Einstein’s support for him.
This unique book is the first to bring together a wealth of writings by Einstein on the topic of race. Although his activism in this area is less well known than his efforts on behalf of international peace and scientific cooperation, he spoke out vigorously against racism both in the United States and around the world.
In May 1946, Einstein made a rare public appearance outside of Princeton, New Jersey (where he lived and worked in the latter part of his life), when he traveled to the campus of Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University, the United States’ first degree-granting black university, to take part in a ceremony conferring upon him the honorary degree of doctor of laws. Prior to accepting that degree, he delivered a ten-minute speech to the assembled audience in which he called upon the United States to take a leading role in preventing another world war and denounced the practice of segregation. Because mainstream U.S. newspapers reported little or nothing about the event, a full transcript of Einstein’s speech that day does not exist — the only existing record of his words is a few excerpts pieced together from quotes reproduced in coverage by the black press:
The only possibility of preventing war is to prevent the possibility of war. International peace can be achieved only if every individual uses all of his power to exert pressure on the United States to see that it takes the leading part in world government.
The United Nations has no power to prevent war, but it can try to avoid another war. The U.N. will be effective only if no one neglects his duty in his private environment. If he does, he is responsible for the death of our children in a future war.
My trip to this institution was in behalf of a worthwhile cause.
There is a separation of colored people from white people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.
The situation of mankind today is like that of a little child who has a sharp knife and plays with it. There is no effective defense against the atomic bomb … It can not only destroy a city but it can destroy the very earth on which that city stood.
As the authors of “Einstein on Race and Racism” noted, Einstein’s comments about segregation at Lincoln University reflected his own experiences in both his native Germany and his adopted home in the United States and were part of a pattern of his attempting to ameliorate the effects of discrimination:
According to Jerome and Taylor, Einstein’s statements at Lincoln were by no means an isolated case. Einstein, who was Jewish, was sensitized to racism by the years of Nazi-inspired threats and harassment he suffered during his tenure at the University of Berlin. Einstein was in the United States when the Nazis came to power in 1933, and, fearful that a return to Germany would place him in mortal danger, he decided to stay, accepting a position at the recently founded Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. He became an American citizen in 1940.
But while Einstein may have been grateful to have found a safe haven, his gratitude did not prevent him from criticizing the ethical shortcomings of his new home.
“Einstein realized that African Americans in Princeton were treated like Jews in Germany,” said Taylor. “The town was strictly segregated. There was no high school that blacks could go to until the 1940s.”
Einstein’s response to the racism and segregation he found in Princeton (Paul Robeson, who was born in Princeton, called it “the northernmost town in the South”) was to cultivate relationships in the town’s African-American community. Jerome and Taylor interviewed members of that community who still remember the white-haired, disheveled figure of Einstein strolling through their streets, stopping to chat with the inhabitants, and handing out candy to local children.
One woman remembered that Einstein paid the college tuition of a young man from the community. Another said that he invited Marian Anderson to stay at his home when the singer was refused a room at the Nassau Inn.
Greenpeace says … the White House and BP have been hiding the truth about the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf.
The (horrible) picture below is of a “critically endangered” Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle. It’s just one of many never-before-seen images we’ve obtained that paints a very different picture than what we were being told at the time. We have to act.
Other pictures show garbage bags full of dead sea turtles, a dolphin struggling to hold on for life in the poisoned water and sperm whales swimming through a sheen of oil. What else about the Gulf disaster is the White House and Big Oil hiding from the public before they finish the settlement?
It’s not too late. The government has yet to announce the amount of money BP owes for the damages caused by the disaster.
Take action and demand that the White House immediately make publicly available all the images, files and documentation before they reach a settlement with BP.
It’s important that the public know exactly what BP is being held accountable for and that the White House is holding the oil giant to it in the settlement.
President Obama likes to talk about how much land and coastal area his administration has opened up for drilling. The administration has even given oil giant Shell the green light to drill for oil in the pristine waters off the coast of Alaska this summer. Is this damage the risk that the administration finds acceptable with offshore drilling?
Tell the White House to publicly release everything they have around the Gulf disaster, make BP pay what they owe and put a stop to ALL new offshore drilling right now.
John Hocevar Greenpeace USA Ocean Campaign Director
P.S. Send the White House a message and then forward this to your friends and family. We have to expose the truth about the BP disaster in the Gulf if we want to stop offshore drilling.
Republicans and some conservadems who say they want to help people get back to work, give small business the means to create jobs have once again said one thing while on camera and then voted against the People of the United States. They say small business needs to be helped because small business creates jobs … but Republicans lie and this is yet another example and now evidence of just what they have in mind for us … as Americans we should all be not only outraged but use our voice to keep Republicans out of office. We need to vote for Politicians who have Americans best interest in mind and clearly it is not …NOT Republicans.
I don’t believe Immigration is that issue which will bite the backs of the Obama Administration because immigration has to be dealt with. It has to be comprehensive and unlike what people on TV seems to want viewers to believe, immigration legal or not did not just pop up after President Obama was elected. Immigration is the elephant in the room that Politicians on both sides of the aisle have avoided and were unable to make progress on. Then there are the others who along with corporations were more interested in making a buck then solving the massive influx of undocumented people looking for jobs; not all immigrants are violent, taking jobs, crazy or breaking laws … which is what i would call life, it you are good at what you do compete and win then whining or saying it’s “unfair” and should not be a part of the conversation
It is ultimately something that will affect every single person in this country. The notion that every State should be able to make up their own rules,policies or laws is absurd not to mention the crap coming from people on the right suggesting that the undocumented or illegal’s as they call them be rounded up and taken back to their homeland. The comment and the idea is not only offensive the suggestion about how to pay for the round-up is in itself scary and brings up another time in History the lives of people who were rounded up and well… we all know what happened. Ask yourself how many ethnic groups went through the crap this is being suggested by mostly Republicans, an en masse deportation. I will admit I was definitely offended and surprised that folks in 2010 would even suggest using stimulus money to round up people and ship them back to their homeland. Is it me or are these wild, wicked and stupid comments from people from the right getting on the airwaves talking seemingly crazy and getting paid $175K to do “ThePeoplesWork.” It has been six years and not much has happened in Congress … or course unless to include the money Republicans spent paid for by taxpayers …
Repealing ObamaCare Votes was up to $70 Million with 50 attempts in 2014 now 63 attempts 2016 … so, you do the math
Government Shutdown $24 billion
Benghazi almost $8 Million
Emailgate $75 Million or more
The current bills brought to the floor of Congress should give everyone involved and the country an opportunity to stop, consider and debate the obvious ramifications, maybe accept that comprehensive immigration reform needs to be clearly explained understood unfortunately what the right calls amnesty. It would be in all of best interests for those on the right to avoid the notion that all the undocumented or”illegal” are just violent and malicious folks doing all kinds of bad things. However,they cannot help themselves though we all know that not all undocumented,”illegals” as they call the undocumented are bad and decades ago, employers decided to look the other way when folks started coming across the border to look for jobs getting the jobs that were paying little or nothing but saved them money. It is time to be honest and deal with the reality of the impact and contributions that undocumented people have to the US economy because it is big.
I personally feel that is a civil rights issue. The idea is not lost on me that the immigration laws republicans want moving across the country would also have some negative consequences and would definitely push Americans back to a time that we all hope is gone and only in our history books. However, we have to remind people often that we cannot go backward. It was not that long ago when women and people of colour were seen as 3rd class citizens, servants and rarely heard from by anyone unless being forced to do the unthinkable or worse.
Photo is from Getty Images.
Painter, Sculptor, Architect, Poet (1475–1564)
Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475, in Caprese, Italy. Born to a family of moderate means in the banking business, Michelangelo became an apprentice to a painter before studying in the sculpture gardens of the powerful Medici family. What followed was a remarkable career as an artist in the Italian Renaissance, recognized in his own time for his artistic virtuosity. His works include the “David” and “Pieta” statues and the ceiling paintings of Rome’s Sistine Chapel, including the “Last Judgment.” Although he always considered himself a Florentine, Michelangelo lived most of his life in Rome, where he died in 1564, at age 88.
Painter, sculptor, architect and poet Michelangelo, one of the most famous artists of the Italian Renaissance, was born Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni on March 6, 1475, in Caprese, Italy. Michelangelo’s father, Leonardo di Buonarrota Simoni, was briefly serving as a magistrate in the small village when he recorded the birth of his second of five sons with his wife, Francesca Neri, but they returned to Florence when Michelangelo was still an infant. Due to his mother’s illness, however, Michelangelo was placed with a family of stonecutters, where he later jested, “With my wet-nurse’s milk, I sucked in the hammer and chisels I use for my statues.”
Indeed, Michelangelo was less interested in schooling than watching the painters at nearby churches, and drawing what he saw there, according to his earliest biographers (Vasari, Condivi and Varchi). It may have been his grammar school friend, Francesco Granacci, six years his senior, who introduced Michelangelo to painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. Michelangelo’s father realized early on that his son had no interest in the family financial business, so agreed to apprentice him, at the age of 13, to the fashionable Florentine painter’s workshop. There, Michelangelo was exposed to the technique of fresco.
Michelangelo had spent only a year at the workshop when an extraordinary opportunity opened to him: At the recommendation of Ghirlandaio, he moved into the palace of Florentine ruler Lorenzo the Magnificent, of the powerful Medici family, to study classical sculpture in the Medici gardens. This was a fertile time for Michelangelo; his years with the Medici family, 1489 to 1492, permitted him access to the social elite of Florence—allowing him to study under the respected sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni and exposing him to prominent poets, scholars and learned Humanists. He also obtained special permission from the Catholic Church to study cadavers for insight into anatomy, though exposure to corpses had an adverse effect on his health.
These combined influences laid the groundwork for what would become Michelangelo’s distinctive style: a muscular precision and reality combined with an almost lyrical beauty. Two relief sculptures that survive, “Battle of the Centaurs” and “Madonna Seated on a Step,” are testaments to his unique talent at the tender age of 16.
Political strife in the aftermath of Lorenzo the Magnificent’s death led Michelangelo to flee to Bologna, where he continued his study. He returned to Florence in 1495 to begin work as a sculptor, modeling his style after masterpieces of classical antiquity.
There are several versions of an intriguing story about Michelangelo’s “Cupid” sculpture, which was artificially “aged” to resemble a rare antique: One version claims that Michelangelo aged the statue to achieve a certain patina, and another version claims that his art dealer buried the sculpture (an “aging” method) before attempting to pass it off as an antique.
Cardinal Riario of San Giorgio bought the “Cupid” sculpture, believing it as such, and demanded his money back when he discovered he’d been duped. Strangely, in the end, Riario was so impressed with Michelangelo’s work that he let the artist keep the money. The cardinal even invited the artist to Rome, where Michelangelo would live and work for the rest of his life.
Not long after Michelangelo’s relocation to Rome in 1498, his fledgling career was bolstered by another cardinal, Jean Bilhères de Lagraulas, a representative of the French King Charles VIII to the pope. Michelangelo’s “Pieta,” a sculpture of Mary holding the dead Jesus across her lap, was finished in less than one year, and was erected in the church of the cardinal’s tomb. At six feet wide and nearly as tall, the statue has been moved five times since, to its present place of prominence St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
Carved from a single piece of Carrara marble, the fluidity of the fabric, positions of the subjects, and “movement” of the skin of the Piet—meaning “pity” or “compassion”—created awe for its early spectators. Today, the “Pieta” remains an incredibly revered work. Michelangelo was just 25 years old at the time.
Legend has it that he overheard pilgrims attribute the work to another sculptor, so he boldly carved his signature in the sash across Mary’s chest. It is the only work to bear his name.
By the time Michelangelo returned to Florence, he had become something of an art star. He took over a commission for a statue of “David,” which two prior sculptors had previously attempted and abandoned, and turned the 17-foot piece of marble into a dominating figure. The strength of the statue’s sinews, vulnerability of its nakedness, humanity of expression and overall courage made the “David” a prized representative of the city of Florence.
Several commissions followed, including an ambitious project for the tomb of Pope Julius II, but that was interrupted when he asked Michelangelo to switch from sculpting to painting to decorate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
The project fueled Michelangelo’s imagination, and the original plan for 12 apostles morphed into more than 300 figures on the ceiling of the sacred space. (The work later had to be completely removed soon after due to an infectious fungus in the plaster, and then recreated.) Michelangelo fired all of his assistants, whom he deemed inept, and completed the 65-foot ceiling alone, spending endless hours on his back and guarding the project jealously until revealing the finished work, on October 31, 1512.
The resulting masterpiece is a transcendent example of High Renaissance art incorporating the Christian symbology, prophecy and humanist principles that Michelangelo had absorbed during his youth. The vivid vignettes of Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling produce a kaleidoscope effect, with the most iconic image being the “Creation of Adam,” a portrayal of God touching the finger of man. Rival Roman painter Raphael evidently altered his style after seeing the work.
Although he continued to sculpt and paint throughout his life, the physical rigor of painting the chapel had taken it’s toll on Michelangelo, and he soon turned his focus toward architecture.
Michelangelo continued to work on the tomb of Julius II for the next several decades. He also designed the Medici Chapel and the Laurentian Library—located opposite the Basilica San Lorenzo in Florence—to house the Medici book collection. These buildings are considered a turning point in architectural history. But Michelangelo’s crowning glory in this field came when he was made chief architect of St. Peter’s Basilica in 1546.
Michelangelo unveiled the soaring “Last Judgment” on the far wall of the Sistine Chapel in 1541. There was an immediate outcr—that the nude figures were inappropriate for so holy a place, and a letter called for the destruction of the Renaissance’s largest fresco. The painter retaliated by inserting into the work new portrayals: Of his chief critic as a devil and himself as the flayed St. Bartholomew.
Though Michelangelo’s brilliant mind and copious talents earned him the regard and patronage of the wealthy and powerful men of Italy, he had his share of detractors. He had a contentious personality and quick temper, which led to fractious relationships, often with his superiors. This not only got Michelangelo into trouble, it created a pervasive dissatisfaction for the painter, who constantly strived for perfection but was unable to compromise.
He sometimes fell into spells of melancholy, which were recorded in many of his literary works: “I am here in great distress and with great physical strain, and have no friends of any kind, nor do I want them; and I do not have enough time to eat as much as I need; my joy and my sorrow/my repose are these discomforts,” he once wrote.
In his youth, Michelangelo had taunted a fellow student, and received a blow on the nose that disfigured him for life. Over the years, he suffered increasing infirmities from the rigors of his work; in one of his poems, he documented the tremendous physical strain that he endured by painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Political strife in his beloved Florence also gnawed at him, but his most notable enmity was with fellow Florentine artist Leonardo da Vinci, who was more than 20 years his senior.
Michelangelo’s poetic impulse, which had been expressed in his sculptures, paintings and architecture, began taking literary form in his later years.
Although he never married, Michelangelo was devoted to a pious and noble widow named Vittoria Colonna, the subject and recipient of many of his more than 300 poems and sonnets. Their friendship remained a great solace to Michelangelo until Colonna’s death in 1547. In 1532, Michelangelo developed an attachment to a young nobleman, Tommaso de’Cavalieri (scholars dispute whether this was a homosexual or paternal relationship).
Following a brief illness, Michelangelo died on February 18, 1564—just weeks before his 89th birthday—at his home in Macel de’Corvi, Rome. A nephew bore his body back to Florence, where he was revered by the public as the “father and master of all the arts,” and was laid to rest at the Basilica di Santa Croce—his chosen place of burial.
Unlike many artists, Michelangelo achieved fame and wealth during his lifetime. He also had the peculiar distinction of living to see the publication of two biographies about his life (written by Giorgio Vasari and Ascanio Condivi). Appreciation of Michelangelo’s artistic mastery has endured for centuries, and his name has become synonymous with the best of the Italian Renaissance.