Black History Month: 6 Ways Albert Einstein Supported The Civil Rights Movement


Albert Einstein, a German-born theoretical physicist and philosopher of science, was also a passionate, committed anti-racist and stood for and with some of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century.

In addition to developing the general theory of relativity, his mass-energy equivalence formula (better known as E = mc2), and positioning his thoughts into one of the pillars of modern physics, Einstein was also the winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics.

It is his history within the African-American community that has not had much exposure in the soon-to-be 60 years since his passing. What has been revealed has come courtesy of Fred Jerome and Rodger Taylor's incredible book Einstein on Race and Racism (Rutgers University Press, 2006).

Throughout the 154-page recounting of Einstein's life and legacy within the civil rights movement, readers are impressed to learn that he not only stood against racism, but delivered speeches and supported initiatives for education and against lynching.

Einstein's efforts were routinely ignored by the mainstream press, which only highlighted his activities that weren't geared toward an anti-racist agenda, as his collaborations with the likes of Paul Robeson, Lincoln University, and Marian Anderson are oftentimes overlooked.

With Black History Month winding down, Tech Times is highlighting some significant details that went missing from the pages of history regarding Einstein's life and work. His opposition to racial superiority and the "diseases" it causes throughout human history offer an intriguing look into the mind of a man who applied the general theory of relativity to model the large-scale connectivity of human interaction.

1. Einstein Gave A Speech At Lincoln University
In 1946, the award-winning physicist traveled to the historically black university of Lincoln near Philadelphia, Pa. It was there at the alma mater of Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall that he delivered an impassioned speech about racism. Calling the notion "a disease of white people," Einsten showed that he was an advocate against indifference and didn't tolerate the disrespect labeled against the African and African-American community. To date, only the quote-unquote minority press wrote about Einstein's appearance and honorary degree distinction at Lincoln University.

2. Einstein Felt Blacks Were Treated The Way Jews Were In Germany
According to Jerome and Taylor, the mutual pens behind Einstein on Race and Racism, "Einstein realized that African-Americans in Princeton, N.J., were treated like Jews in Germany." Einstein's response to the blatant racism and segregation was to cultivate meaningful relationships within the town's African-American community. In the book, elder blacks who still live in the town recall Einstein as a "white-haired, disheveled figure" who casually and calmly rolled through their streets, oftentimes stopping to strike up conversation with the locals, and handing out sweets to their children. Einstein lived in Princeton from 1933 until his death in 1955.

3. Einstein Contributed To The Betterment Of Black People's Education
In their book, the authors talk about one African-American resident who lived in Princeton who recalled a time when Einstein paid the entire college tuition of a young man from the community. The move may seem inspirational by today's standards, but during the height of racism prior to the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, this was a calculated effort to improve the lives of African-Americans.

4. Einstein Stood Against Discrimination Against Noted Black Legends
Another passage from the book found the Nobel Prize-winning physicist looking after one of the most celebrated singers of the 20th century, Marian Anderson. The vibrant contralto performer was originally supposed to stay at the Nassau Inn in Princeton, but was refused entry due to her race. Despite performing in major music venues with famous orchestras throughout the United States and Europe, she was considered less than a human being by racists. With that in mind, Albert Einstein invited the world-renowned performer to stay at his home after she was denied a stay at the Nassau Inn.

5. Einstein Offered To Be A Character Witness For W.E.B. DuBois
The noted physicist and critical thinker joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as a member in Princeton. He also campaigned for the humane treatment of African-Americans. During his speech at Lincoln University, where he called racism America's "worst disease," he emphasized that the thought of racial superiority over others "handed down [the disease] from one generation to the next." As part of his involvement with the NAACP, he frequently talked with W.E.B. DuBois, a historian, civil rights activist and one of the organization's co-founders in 1909, and was even prepared to testify on his behalf during his trial in 1951. Upon entering his name into the mix as a character witness for DuBois, the judge decided to drop the case and move on.

6. Einstein Befriended Paul Robeson And Fought Against Lynching In America
The Nobel-winning physicist met Paul Robeson in 1935 when the latter came to perform at Princeton's McCarter Theatre. According to Einstein on Race and Racism, the two had mutual interests and beliefs, and quickly became friends. Together, they partnered to respond to an upswing of racial murders as black soldiers returned home from World War II with the American Crusade to End Lynching efforts. Their 20-year friendship has never been discussed publicly, but that omission may soon be rectified as a movie is in the works about their relationship.

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