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.
Julian Bond came of age during that critical time in this nation’s history when winning equal rights for all took a great deal: a clear head, a big heart, a razor-sharp intellect, and a way with words.
Julian Bond had it all. And he could wrap all of it up to create whatever was needed at the time – either a tool or a weapon, a poem or a sermon. He was driven by a commitment to make America better.
While a Morehouse-based member of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), helping to organize the Freedom Summer of 1964 and its massive voter registration drive in Mississippi, Julian Bond took to task the American public and President Lyndon B. Johnson.
“We have learned through bitter experience in the past three years that the judicial, legislative and executive bodies of Mississippi form a wall of absolute resistance to granting civil rights to Negroes. It is our conviction that only a massive effort by the country backed by the full power of the President can offer some hope for even minimal change in Mississippi.”
Those words came from a letter Julian Bond wrote on April 28, 1964 to one of America’s most inspiring writers, James Baldwin. He was writing to encourage Baldwin to join a “jury” to hear “testimony” about Civil Rights violations from African Americans facing discrimination in employment, housing, and voting rights in Mississippi. Under a plan designed by SNCC and other members of the Council of Federated Organizations, the testimony would be presented to the President so he would be moved to create a government-sanctioned way to protect the Freedom Summer workers.
“The President must be made to understand that this responsibility rests with him, and him alone, and that neither he nor the American people can afford to jeopardize the lives of the people who will be working in Mississippi this summer by failing to take the necessary precautions before the summer begins.”
Bond’s letter to Baldwin has entered the collections of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It will be used alongside similar documents to show how people like Julian Bond helped design and fuel the Civil Rights Movement.
Bond was so committed to helping us tell that story well, that he became a member of the museum’s Civil Rights History Project advisory committee. In that role he helped us land interviews with some of the most important workers in the movement; he also conducted two of the more than 150 interviews for this oral history project. One was with Lawrence Guyot, the director of the 1964 Freedom Summer project in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Click here to read a transcript of that interview.
Julian Bond wrote his letter to James Baldwin in 1964 at the age of 23. Less than three years later he would be awarded his seat in the Georgia House of Representatives by a unanimous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. Four years after that, in 1971, he would become the founding president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Nearly 30 years later, in 1998, he would take the helm of the NAACP serving as its national chairman for an astonishing 12 years.
Julian Bond has spent his life as a champion in the campaign for equality. Much of what we as a nation know about compassion and commitment, we have learned from Julian Bond, the people he emulated and the people he inspired. We are sad because he has left us. And we are deeply honored that we had him for as long as we did … to help us help America live up to her promises. We are better people because he walked among us for a while.
Thank you, Horace Julian Bond.
Yes, this man was given a seat in Congress … the man and his Republican crew in Congress seem more dangerous to our very democracy now …
U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, you may remember, was a co-sponsor of the “Life at Conception Act,” a so-called personhood measure which would give full constitutional rights to each “preborn human person” at the “moment of fertilization. In addition to being a frontal assault on Roe v. Wade, the bill (likely unconstitutional) could ban certain forms of birth control such as IUDs or the morning-after pill. (It could also potentially force women into dangerous pregnancies and to deliver babies that can’t survive outside the womb, or force families in situations like this to keep a braindead woman on life support). Click the graphic for the complete article
I know no candidate is perfect but if they are running to represent you as a Public Servant there are certain mandatory things they should all live up to … like the oath they take, which is seemingly being tossed aside by Republicans
I am sure there must be more information about where Tom Cotton stands on the issues …. do your research
I have to say that having spent a few minutes looking for actual comments from Mr.Cotton about the issues facing our 21st Century lives is not readily available. I went to plenty of sites, but one that claims they are a factcheck site seemed somewhat biased against mark pryor though they did divulge that Rep tom cotton did have an association or worked with the insurance industry at one time stating, “Cotton’s insurance experience is limited to consulting work for a federal agency.” This seems significant to me, but I am no expert. The article does not think his consulting work is important, but seems to use the potato paatato meme quite often in their fact checking when his constituents deserve to know what part he played as an insurance consultant. I have a problem with the bottom line! That Rep.Tom Cotton seems to back stripping seniors of Medicare, assuming women have no common sense, backing any budget coming from Rep.Paul Ryan – Those are just a few of many issues that seems buried in a lot of the surface articles concerning Mr. Cotton. So, it would be in the best interest of the People in Arkansas to ask questions of Tom Cotton … Where do you stand in this 21st Century life? Climate Change, Reproductive Rights, Immigration, ACA and tell your constituents why the GOP has no viable replacement bills plans to replace anything they may want to repeal ? I think the lack of plans offered up proves just how unqualified the 113th Republican members of Congress are
So, there is more information …. of course and for the complete article ~ search for the2013 headline in huffingtonpost.com
(1)It was actually on July 2, 1776, that America gained its independence. So why do we celebrate on July 4?
Keep clicking to find out from Kenneth C. Davis, author of the “Don’t Know Much About” book series.
(5) John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826. Davis explained, “That may be the most extraordinary coincidence in all of history. On the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the declaration…the two giants of the declaration both died. … Jefferson died first. Adams was alive, of course, in Massachusetts. He didn’t know that Jefferson had died but said, famously, perhaps apocryphally, that ‘Jefferson still lives.’ And people took that to mean his words will live forever.”
(6) The Liberty had nothing to do with July 4th. It wasn’t called the “Liberty bell” until the 1830s and that’s also when it got its famous crack.
(7) Only two men signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th 1776 — John Hancock (not the big signature!) and Charles Thompson, secretary of the Congress.
(8) Jefferson’s original draft was lost and the one eventually signed is the “engrossed” document and is kept at the National Archives.
(9) The printed version of the Declaration was called the Dunlap Broadside – 200 were made but only 27 are accounted for. One of these was found in the back of picture frame at a tag sale and sold at auction for $8.14 million to television producer Norman Lear. It now travels the country to be displayed to the public.