Tag Archives: California

MLK jr. speech 5/17/1957 ~ Give Us the Ballot ~


“Give Us the Ballot, We Will Transform the South”

by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Speech given before the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington, May 17, 1957

Martin Luther King, Jr. Three years ago the Supreme Court of this nation rendered in simple, eloquent and unequivocal language a decision which will long be stenciled on the mental sheets of succeeding generations. For all men of good will, this May 17 decision came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of segregation. It came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of distinguished people throughout the world who had dared only to dream of freedom. It came as a legal and sociological deathblow to the old Plessy doctrine of “separate-but-equal.” It came as a reaffirmation of the good old American doctrine of freedom and equality for all people.

Unfortunately, this noble and sublime decision has not gone without opposition. This opposition has often risen to ominous proportions. Many states have risen up in open defiance. The legislative halls of the South ring loud with such words as “interposition” and “nullification.” Methods of defiance range from crippling economic reprisals to the tragic reign of violence and terror. All of these forces have conjoined to make for massive resistance.

But, even more, all types of conniving methods are still being used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters. The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic traditions and its is democracy turned upside down.

So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.

So our most urgent request to the president of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote. Give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights. Give us the ballot and we will no longer plead to the federal government for passage of an anti-lynching law; we will by the power of our vote write the law on the statute books of the southern states and bring an end to the dastardly acts of the hooded perpetrators of violence. Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient misdeeds of blood-thirsty mobs into calculated good deeds of orderly citizens. Give us the ballot and we will fill our legislative halls with men of good will, and send to the sacred halls of Congressmen who will not sign a Southern Manifesto, because of their devotion to the manifesto of justice. Give us the ballot and we will place judges on the benches of the South who will “do justly and love mercy,” and we will place at the head of the southern states governors who have felt not only the tang of the human, but the glow of the divine. Give us the ballot and we will quietly and nonviolently, without rancor or bitterness, implement the Supreme Court’s decision of May 17, 1954.

<!–Read about recent allegations of voter disenfranchisement in Florida
and other states across the country in these articles.

17

–>

Learn more about Martin Luther King, Jr. and read more of his speeches and writings at The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University.

Resources: pbs.org

Advertisements

On This Day …. Cesar Estrada Chavez 4/23/93


by UFW

The Story of Cesar Chavez
THE BEGINNING

The story of Cesar Estrada Chavez begins near Yuma, Arizona. Cesar was born on March 31, 1927.

He was named after his grandfather, Cesario. Regrettably, the story of Cesar Estrada Chavez also ends near Yuma, Arizona. He passed away on April 23, 1993, in San Luis, a small village near Yuma, Arizona.

He learned about justice or rather injustice early in his life. Cesar grew up in Arizona; the small adobe home, where Cesar was born was swindled from them by dishonest Anglos. Cesar’s father agreed to clear eighty acres of land and in exchange he would receive the deed to forty acres of land that adjoined the home. The agreement was broken and the land sold to a man named Justus Jackson. Cesar’s dad went to a lawyer who advised him to borrow money and buy the land.  Later when Cesar’s father could not pay the interest on the  loan the lawyer bought back the land and sold it to the original owner. Cesar learned a lesson about injustice that he would never forget. Later, he would say, The love for justice that  is in us is not only the best part of our being but it is also the most true to our nature.

            In 1938 he and his family moved to California. He lived in La Colonia Barrio in Oxnard for a short period, returning to Arizona several months later. They returned to California in June 1939 and this time settled in San Jose. They lived in the barrio called Sal Si Puedes -“Get Out If You Can.” Cesar thought the only way to get out of the circle of poverty was to work his way up and send the kids to college.  He and his family worked in the fields of California from Brawley to Oxnard, Atascadero, Gonzales, King City, Salinas, McFarland, Delano Wasco, Selma, Kingsburg, and Mendota.

He did not like school as a child, probably because he spoke only Spanish at home. The teachers were mostly Anglo and only spoke English. Spanish was forbidden in school. He remembers being punished with a ruler to his knuckles for violating the rule. He also remembers that some schools were segregated and he felt that in the integrated schools he was like a monkey in a cage. He remembers having to listen to a lot of racist remarks. He remembers seeing signs that read whites only. He and his brother, Richard, attended thirty-seven  schools. He felt that education had nothing to do with his farm worker/migrant way of life. In 1942 he graduated from the eighth grade. Because his father, Librado, had been in an accident and because he did not want his mother, Juana, to work in the fields, he could not to go to high school, and instead became a migrant farm worker.

While his childhood school education was not the best, later in life, education was his passion. The walls of his office in La Paz (United Farm Worker Headquarters ) are lined with hundreds of books ranging from philosophy, economics, cooperatives, and unions, to biographies on Gandhi and the Kennedys’. He believed that, “The end of all education should surely be service to others,” a belief that he practiced until his untimely death.

He joined the U.S. Navy, which was then segregated, in 1946, at the age of 19, and served for two years.

In 1948 Cesar married Helen Fabela. They honeymooned in California by visiting all the California Missions from Sonoma to San Diego (again the influence of education). They settled in Delano and started their family. First Fernando, then Sylvia, then Linda, and five  more children were to follow.

Cesar returned to San Jose where he met and was influenced by Father Donald McDonnell. They talked about farm workers and strikes. Cesar began reading about St. Francis and Gandhi and nonviolence. After Father McDonnell came another very influential person, Fred Ross.

Cesar became an organizer for Ross’ organization, the Community Service Organization – CSO. His first task was voter registration.

THE UNITED FARM WORKERS IS BORN

In 1962 Cesar founded the National Farm Workers Association, later to become the United Farm Workers – the UFW. He was joined by Dolores Huerta and the union was born. That same year Richard Chavez designed the UFW Eagle and Cesar chose the black and red colors. Cesar told the story of the birth of the eagle. He asked Richard to design the flag, but Richard could not make an eagle that he liked. Finally he sketched one on a piece of brown wrapping paper. He then squared off the wing edges so that the eagle would be easier for union members to draw on the handmade red flags that would give courage to the farm workers with their own powerful symbol. Cesar made reference to the flag by stating, “A symbol is an important thing. That is why we chose an Aztec eagle. It gives pride . . . When people see it they know it means dignity.”

For a long time in 1962, there were very few union dues paying members.  By 1970 the UFW got grape growers to accept union contracts and had             effectively organized most of that industry, at one point in time claiming 50,000 dues paying members. The reason was Cesar Chavez’s  tireless leadership and nonviolent tactics that included the Delano  grape strike, his fasts that focused national attention on farm workers  problems, and the 340-mile march from Delano to Sacramento in 1966.  The farm workers and supporters carried banners with the black eagle  with HUELGA (strike) and VIVA LA CAUSA (Long live our cause). The  marchers wanted the state government to pass laws which would permit farm workers to organize into a union and allow collective bargaining  agreements. Cesar made people aware of the struggles of farm workers  for better pay and safer working conditions. He succeeded through             nonviolent tactics (boycotts, pickets, and strikes). Cesar Chavez  and the union sought recognition of the importance and dignity of  all farm workers.

It was the beginning of La Causa a cause that was supported by  organized labor, religious groups, minorities, and students. Cesar Chavez had the foresight to train his union workers and then to  send many of them into the cities where they were to use the boycott and picket as their weapon.

Cesar was willing to sacrifice his own life so that the union would  continue and that violence was not used. Cesar fasted many times.  In 1968 Cesar went on a water only, 25 day fast. He repeated the  fast in 1972 for 24 days, and again in 1988, this time for 36 days.  What motivated him to do this? He said, Farm workers everywhere  are angry and worried that we cannot win without violence. We have proved it before through persistence, hard work, faith and willingness  to sacrifice. We can win and keep our own self-respect and build  a great union that will secure the spirit of all people if we do  it through a rededication and recommitment to the struggle for justice  through nonviolence.

THE FAST

Many events precipitated the fast, especially the terrible suffering of the farm workers and their children,                     the crushing of farm worker rights, the dangers of pesticides,  and the denial of fair and free elections.

Cesar said about the fast, ” A fast is first and foremost personal. It is a fast for the purification of my own body, mind, and soul. The fast is also a heartfelt prayer for purification and strengthening for all those who work beside me in the farm worker movement. The fast is also an act of penance for those in positions of moral authority and for all men and women activists who know what is right and just, who know that they could and should do more. The fast is finally a declaration of non-cooperation with supermarkets who promote and sell and profit from California table grapes. During the past few years I have been studying the plague of pesticides on our land and our food,” Cesar continued “The evil is far greater than even I had thought it to be, it threatens to choke out the life of our people and also the life system that supports us all. This solution to this deadly crisis will not be found in the arrogance of the powerful, but in  solidarity with the weak and helpless. I pray to God that this fast will be a preparation for a multitude of simple deeds for justice. Carried out by men and women whose hearts  are focused on the suffering of the poor and who yearn, with us, for a better world. Together, all things are possible.”

Cesar Chavez completed his 36-day Fast for Life on August 21, 1988. The Reverend Jesse Jackson took up where Cesar left off, fasting on water for three days before passing on the fast to celebrities  and leaders. The fast was passed to Martin Sheen, actor; the Reverend  J. Lowery, President SCLC; Edward Olmos, actor; Emilio Estevez,  actor; Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert Kennedy, Peter Chacon,  legislator, Julie Carmen, actress; Danny Glover, actor; Carly Simon,  singer; and Whoopi Goldberg, actress.

THE DEATH OF CESAR CHAVEZ

Cesar Estrada Chavez died peacefully in his sleep on April 23, 1993 near Yuma, Arizona, a short distance from the small family farm in the Gila River Valley where he was born more than 66 years before.The founder and president of the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO was in Yuma helping UFW attorneys defend the union against a lawsuit brought by Bruce Church Inc., a giant Salinas,  Calif.-based lettuce and vegetable producer. Church demanded that the farm workers pay millions of dollars in damages resulting  from a UFW boycott of its lettuce during the 1980’s. Rather than bring the legal action in a state where the boycott actually  took place, such as California or New York, Church “shopped around” for a friendly court in conservative, agribusiness-dominated Arizona-where there had been no boycott activity.

“Cesar gave his last ounce of strength defending the farm workers  in this case,” stated his successor, UFW President Arturo Rodriguez,  who was with him in Arizona during the trial. He died standing up  for their First Amendment right to speak out for themselves. He believed in his heart that the farm workers were right in boycotting Bruce Church Inc. lettuce during the l980’s and he was determined  to prove that in court.” (When the second multimillion dollar judgment  for Church was later thrown out by an appeal’s court, the company  signed a UFW contract in May 1996.

After the trial recessed at about 3 p.m. on Thursday, April 22,  Cesar spent part of the afternoon driving through Latino neighborhoods  in Yuma that he knew as a child. Many Chavezes still live in the area.

He arrived about 6 p.m. in San Luis, Arizona-about 20 miles from Yuma, at the modest concrete-block home of Dofla Maria Hau, a former  farm worker and longtime friend. Cesar and eight other UFW leaders  and staff were staying at her house in a poor farm worker neighborhood not far from the Mexican border.

Cesar ate dinner at around 9 p.m. and presided over a brief meeting  to review the day’s events. He had just finished two days of often grueling examination by attorneys for Bruce Church Inc.

He talked to his colleagues about taking care of themselves-a recent  recurring theme with Cesar because he was well aware of the long hours required from him and other union officers and staff. Still,  he was in good spirits despite being exhausted after prolonged questioning on the witness stand; he complained about feeling some weakness  when doing his evening exercises.

The UFW founder went to bed at about 10 or 10:30 p.m. A union staff  member said he later saw a reading light shining from Cesar’s room.

The light was still on at 6 a.m. the next morning. That was not  seen as unusual. Cesar usually woke up in the early hours of the  morning well before dawn to read, write or meditate.

When he had not come out by 9 a.m., his colleagues entered his  bedroom found that Cesar had died apparently, according to authorities,  at night in his sleep.

He was found lying on his back with his head turned to the left. His shoes were off and he still wore his clothes from the day before. In his right hand was a book on Native American crafts. There was  a peaceful smile on his face.

THE LAST MARCH WITH CESAR CHAVEZ

On April 29, 1993, Cesar Estrada  Chavez was honored in death by those he led in life. More than  50,000 mourners came to honor the charismatic labor leader at the site of his first public fast in 1968 and his last in 1988, the United Farm Workers Delano Field Office at “Forty Acres.”It was the largest funeral of any labor leader in the history of the U.S. They came in caravans from Florida to California to pay respect to a man whose strength was in his simplicity.Farm workers, family members, friends and union staff took turns standing vigil over the plain pine coffin which held the body of Cesar Chavez. Among the honor guard were many                     celebrities who had supported Chavez throughout his years  of struggle to better the lot of farmworkers throughout America.

Many of the mourners had marched side by side with Chavez during his tumultuous years in the vineyards and farms of America. For  the last time, they came to march by the side of the man who had taught them to stand up for their rights, through nonviolent protest and collective bargaining.

Cardinal Roger M. Mahoney, who celebrated the funeral mass, called  Chavez “a special prophet for the worlds’ farm workers.” Pall bearers,   including crews of these workers, Chavez children and grandchildren,  then carried their fallen leader, resting at last, from the Memorial  Park to Forty Acres.

The death of Chavez marked an era of dramatic changes in American agriculture. His contributions would be eroded, and others would have to shoulder the burden of his work. But, Cesar Chavez, who insisted that those who labor in the earth were entitled to share fairly in the rewards of their toil, would never be forgotten.

As Luis Valdez said, “Cesar, we have come to plant your heart like a seed . . . the farm workers shall harvest in the seed of your  memory.”
              FINAL RESTING PLACE/FINAL RECOGNITION

The body of Cesar Chavez was taken to La Paz, the UFW’s California headquarters, by his family and UFW leadership. He was laid to rest near a bed of roses, in front of his office.On August 8, 1994, at a White House ceremony, Helen Chavez, Cesar’s widow, accepted the Medal of Freedom for her late  husband from President Clinton. In the citation accompanying America’s highest civilian honor which was awarded posthumously, the President lauded Chavez for having “faced formidable,often violent opposition with dignity and nonviolence.And he was victorious. Cesar Chavez left our world better  than he found it, and his legacy inspires us still. He was for his own people a Moses figure,” the President declared. “The farm workers who labored in the fields and yearned for  respect and self-sufficiency pinned their hopes on this remarkable  man who, with faith and discipline, soft spoken humility and amazing inner strength, led a very courageous life”

The citation accompanying the award noted how Chavez was a farm worker from childhood who “possessed a deep personal understanding  of the plight of migrant workers, and he labored all his years to lift their lives.” During his lifetime, Chavez never earned more   than $5,000 a year. The late Senator Robert Kennedy called him “one of the heroic figures of our time.”

Chavez’s successor, UFW President Arturo Rodriguez, thanked the president on behalf of the United Farm Workers and said, “Every day in California and in other states where farm workers are organizing,  Cesar Chavez lives in their hearts. Cesar lives wherever Americans’ he inspired work nonviolently for social change.”

Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday ~~ repost



Home

About Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday

About Cesar E. Chavez

About the Holiday

Get Involved

Sign The Petition

Join March 31, 2008 Actions

Links

Contact Us

 
Does Your State Participate?Tell us what is going on in your city/state to honor Cesar Chavez? Click Here

Make a DonationMake check out to: Cesar E. Chavez
National HolidaySend to: Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday 3325 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1208 Los Angeles, CA 90010

About Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday

Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday was established by Los Angeles volunteers who organized and led the effort in California that won Cesar Chavez Day, the first legal state holiday and day of service and learning in honor of farm worker leader Cesar E. Chavez.  The legal holiday bill introduced by then State Senator Richard Polanco (Los Angeles-D) was signed into law by then Governor Gray Davis (D) on August 18, 2000. The holiday is celebrated in California on Cesar E. Chavez’s birthday March 31st.  This marked the first time that a labor leader or Latino has been honored with a public legal holiday.

The California legal holiday set into motion a wave of initiatives resulting in optional and commemorative Cesar Chavez Days in nine additional states (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Rhode Island.)

Cesar Chavez Day brings together hundreds of thousands who engage in celebrations, service and learning projects, and other actions that further the many causes which Cesar Chavez worked for.

The mission of Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday, a public benefit organization, is to work for national recognition of Cesar E. Chavez on his birthday March 31.  We are forming national, state and local coalitions; organizing volunteer committees; and providing education about the value to our nation of honoring Cesar E. Chavez.

Our Vision

Cesar Chavez gave our nation and each of us a unique example to live our lives by.  His selfless dedication for farm worker and worker rights, economic justice, civil rights, environmental justice, peace, nonviolence, empowerment of the poor and disenfranchised, is a monumental legacy that will inspire all and the generations to come. The winning of national recognition for Cesar Chavez with holidays, service, learning and community action events, is a fitting tribute and significant way to share his life’s work as the founder and leader of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW).

What is most important is that remembering and honoring Cesar Chavez inspires more people to become involved in the causes that continue Cesar Chavez’s extraordinary legacy.

Advisory Council

Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday extends our profound thanks to our advisors for their assistance that sheds light on our journey.

  • Jerry Acosta, Western Regional Director AFL-CIO
  • Richard Alarcon, Los Angeles City Council Member, former CA State Senator
  • Magdalena Beltran-del Olmo, Vice President of Communications, Wellness Foundation
  • Antonio Gonzalez, President, Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SWVREP) & William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI)
  • Michael Jensen, Jensen Communications
  • State Senator Richard Polanco (Ret.), Chairman, California Latino Caucus Institute &author of the California holiday bill for Cesar Chavez
  • Ken Riley, Vice President, International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), Vice Pres.South Carolina AFL-CIO & President ILA Local 1422 (Charleston)
  • Ken Johnson, Southern Regional Director, AFL-CIO

Partners and Founding Sponsors

Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday wishes to thank our partners and founding sponsor organizations and individuals whose support insures our journey.

Partners

Founding Sponsors

  • International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) AFL-CIO
  • International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) Coast Committee
  • Utility Workers Union of America AFL-CIO Local 132
  • Service Employees International Union Local 535 (CA)
  • Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
  • Los Angeles City Employees Chicano Association (LACECA)
  • Royce Adams
  • Evelina Alarcon
  • Hernando Martinez
  • Dan Nemmers, Web design and development
  • Manny Rico
  • Gary Ruffner, Natl. Secretary Treasurer, UWUA

If you would like to become a partner or founding sponsor, please contact: Executive Director, Evelina Alarcon: EvelinaAlarcon@cesarchavezholiday.org

Endorsers of a Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday (Partial List)

  • AFL-CIO
  • NAACP
  • National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
  • League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
  • National Latino Congreso
  • National Education Association (NEA)
  • Sierra Club
  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
  • Communication Workers of America (CWA)
  • Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA)
  • United Farm Workers of America (UFW)
  • Farm Labor Organizing Committee AFL-CIO (FLOC)
  • Los Angeles City Council
  • Philadelphia City Council
  • Board of Education of the City of Los Angeles
  • Los Angeles County Federation of Labor (CA)
  • San Francisco Central Labor Council (CA)
  • King County Central Labor Council (WA)
  • Cesar E. Chavez Foundation
  • Dolores Huerta Foundation
  • US Senator John Edwards
  • Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
  • Pastor Warren Stewart, led state holiday effort for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Arizona
  • Carlos Santana
  • Actors– Edward James Olmos, Martin Sheen, George Lopez, Mike Farrell, Ed Begley Jr., Lupe Ontiveros, Esai Morales
  • Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU)
  • Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW)
  • Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA)
  • Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA)
  • Pride At Work
  • and many more!

Photos of Cesar Chavez Our sincere thanks to Oscar Castillo and Bob Fitch for the use of their photos of Cesar Chavez

If you would like to become an Endorser, contact Exec. Director Evelina Alarcon at: EvelinaAlarcon@cesarchavezholiday.org

 

USA.gov … Beware of Skin Lotions Tainted with Mercury


a repost for those buying  gifts …

Beware of Skin Lotions Tainted With Mercury

Some skin lotions and antiseptic soaps claim to clean and lighten skin while removing freckles and wrinkles. Instead, these illegally imported cosmetic products make consumers ill from exposure to high levels of mercury.

The U.S. Government is warning consumers about these products after dozens of people in at least seven states were diagnosed with mercury poisoning. Victims include a woman in California who was hospitalized after using an unlabeled skin lotion for three years. Several members of her family also had high levels of mercury in their bodies, even though they didn’t use the lotion.

“Exposure to mercury can damage your kidneys and nervous system. It also interferes with brain development in unborn babies and very young children,” said Gloria Sánchez-Contreras, a spokesperson for the Food and Drug Administration.

See the names and photos of some of the illegal products.

Immigrants Are at High Risk

The FDA has identified dozens of products that contain high levels of mercury, and has taken steps to deny shipments of these products into the United States. However, many of these lotions and soaps are brought into the country by mail or by international travelers. Once here, they often end up on store shelves that cater to immigrants, including Hispanics, Asians, Africans and people from the Middle East.

People who buy these products are not putting only their own health at risk, small children can also be exposed to mercury by breathing in the vapors of a skin lotion or by touching someone who has used the cream and then putting their fingers in their mouth. “That’s why it’s so important for consumers and sellers to know about the dangers of possible mercury poisoning associated with the use of or exposure to these skin products,” said Sánchez-Contreras.

“That’s why it’s so important for consumers and sellers to know about the dangers of possible mercury poisoning associated with the use of or exposure to these skin products,” said Sánchez-Contreras.

How to Avoid These Products

The FDA prohibits the use of mercury in skin lotions and cosmetic soaps manufactured abroad. To avoid skin lightening and anti-aging products tainted with mercury, stay away from products that:

  • Do not clearly list ingredients on the label.
  • Include the words “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurio,” or “mercury” in their labels.
  • Have labels written in other languages unless they also include a clear description in English.

What to Do If Exposed to Mercury

Be alert for signs of mercury poisoning, which include irritability, changes in vision and hearing, memory loss, depression and numbness in the hands, feet or mouth. If you suspect you have been using products tainted with mercury, stop using them immediately and do the following:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly as well as any other part of the body that might have come into contact with the product.
  • Contact your doctor or health clinic.
  • If you have questions call the National Capital Poison Center at 1 (800) 222-1222.

You can also report the adverse effects of any drug or product on the FDA.gov website or by calling (800) 332-1088.

See the names and photos of some of the illegal products.

first posted 4/11/2012

In the Library: “Einstein on Race and Racism” by Jerome and Taylor


TumblrAlbertEnsteina0630a335c22bfc39dac14f5bdde1dfd Did Einstein speak about racism at Lincoln University?

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.