John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2006 February 7 
    There were numerous lectures and shows about Albert Einstein in 
new York City in the last two years as part of the centennial 
celebration of his theory of special relativity. They dealt with 
various aspects of Einstein's life and work, which in assemblage gave 
the audience an amazingly thoro image of this TIME magazine 'Man of 
the century'.
    The Science Industry Business Library on Manhattan hosted several 
of thee talks, including one on Thursday 26 January 2006. This talk 
was, in harsh contrast to all the others, offered a facet of Einstein 
little known to the the public.
    Einstein in the postwar years in Princeton, New Jersey, was a 
civil rights activist! According to the speakers, Fred Jerome and 
Rodger Taylor, Einstein not only wrote and spoke against racism in 
America, but actively supported the nascent Black-American movement.
The audience
    The lecture room in SIBL is small, holding at utterly tightest a 
full hundred of seats. The usual packing is for about eighty, which 
was the arrangement for this talk. About 2/3 were occupied, roughly a 
normal attendance for any SIBL presentation.
    However, a third of the seats, half of the audience, were taken by 
blacks. This is way higher a ration for blacks at other SIBL science 
talks. Obviously the topic attracted a cut of population not tapped 
    Yet, most of the blacks seemed to be isolated folk. They arrived 
individually and quietly took their seats. I hazard thia merely was a 
result of the first-time attendance of the black sector of the 
    Most of the other folk were regulars. They, with me, exchanged 
greetings and news. 
    At the end of the talk, during the banter and informal chat, the 
blacks did mingle with every one else. For me, they asked the suual 
physics questions and details about a this or that episode in 
Einstein's life. On the whole, the blacks to me were about as cultured 
and educated as any one else I came onto at SIBL lectures.
The presentation
    I have to note that this was one of the more crucial lectures ever 
given in New York, yet was one of the poorest in presentation. The 
two, Jerome & Taylor, used the tag-team method of delivering the talk. 
This can work well if practiced and exercised. On this occasion it was 
a dud. The two interrupted each other, sidetracked thought trains, and 
disconnected from time to time. 
    In spite of the flubs of presentation, the substance of the 
lecture was one that every Einstein historian better study to further 
his appreciation for him. Essentially, Jerome & Taylor appear to have 
uncovered many Einstein writings and correspondences that were never 
exhibited or revealed before. They claim these were available and 
known but for whatever reason they never made it into the mainstream 
shows, books, celebrations about Einstein. 
Postwar Princeton
    After World War II, with the conquest of the German and Japanese 
regimes, Einstein continued to live in Princeton, New Jersey. This 
town, like many others in the northern states, exercised segregation 
and discrimination against the black population, While no where as 
cruel as in the Deep South, this scheme impeded the blacks from 
advancing upward and outward into the postwar American society. 
    Blacks could attend cinema with whites but had to sit in their own 
section. Princeton University itself did not allow black students 
until about 1945 and reserved only the lower and poorer employment on 
campus for blacks. 
    There was a black community in and near Princeton accumulated by 
the jobs at the university and industries in the surrounding 
countryside. Einstein frequented this nabe in his daily life and made 
friends with many of its inhabitants. Thru them he better understood 
the problems they faced, despite living in a country dedicated to 
humanity and human dignity. 
    There was no organized civil rights program in the late 1940s thru 
the early 1950s, the remainder of Einstein's life. Individuals tried 
to build a constituency to bring the black condition to the attention 
of local officials, with little success. These, along with thousands 
of other not related to the black situation, were targeted as 
subversives by the rise of Senator Joe McCarthy in Congress.
    In the postwar period, until the main current of civil right get 
flowing in the early 1960s the blacks were typicly known as 'negroes' 
-- with the second 'e' -- or 'coloreds'. In fact, one of the early 
groups created in the late 1940s for alleviating black problems was, 
and still is!, called the National Association for the Advancement of 
Colored People. 
Einstein supports blacks
    Having seen the horrors of an overseas society that actively and 
openly express physical hatred against a category of its own people, 
Einstein was greatly angered by what he witnesses in peacetime America 
in his own town, the one he fled to from oppression. He at first wrote 
letters and gave talks about racism, calling it wrong, inhumane, a 
disease, and others too raw to repeat here. 
    For the most part, these were ignored or lightly treated, but 
there was little real advance in betterment for the blacks in 
Princeton. He did accomplish many individual successes, like stopping 
a black person from being arbitrarily evicted from his apartment or 
reducing an excessive fine for a minor violation. 
    Fortunately, perhaps, because Princeton was a northern town, when 
confronted by Einstein's backing, officials generally let him have his 
way, but only for that particular instance. 
Einstein as activist 
    After World War II, many of the black GIs returning home were set 
upon in the Deep South and hanged or otherwise liquidated. The modern 
explanation is based on a profound resentment that America was saved 
by, erm, those people, who somehow made the white folk lose face. 
    An other relates to residual desire to keep control of the blacks, 
after so much was lost with the elimination of slavery. Under slavery, 
blacks were property with no defined human quality. They could b 
removed like an unwanted pet or livestock. And there was the lingering 
resentment that the South did lose the Civil War, which was based in 
part on the slave issue. 
    Einstein saw these incidents as a show of grotesque weakness among 
the whites, Crudelity on the blacks caome from this weakness. Racism 
is a disease, not of blacks, but of white. These are characterizations 
of what Einstein said and wrote at the time. 
    To better express himself and to be more available to the blacks . 
Einstein joined or donated to the early black civil rights groups. 
It seems that Einstein did attend, as a friend and member, local black 
awareness and community meetings in and around Princeton.
    In several instances, Einstein was a witness in court on behalf of 
blacks on trial. Most were for nonsense charges related to the 
crescendo of anticommunist fervor and McCarthyism. Some were for 
trumped up charges stemming from the accused's black agitation. 
    He scored a mixed success rate, depending on the stature he 
commanded with the particular court, which depended on its location. 
Some parts of the United States then, and now!, have a deep-seated 
despising for mental or academic or scholarly pursuits. Other courts, 
appreciating Einstein's work in science and humanity, gave due and 
proper weight to his role in the black's case. 
Why did Einstein care?
    I note here some of the suggestions, expressed with some 
electricity by the audience, during the Q&A. 
    Was the concern for the blacks just an other facet of his humanity 
and peacefulness? Was it a follow up to his fight for the Jews before 
the war? Was he fearful that American racism will develop into a full-
scale pogrom and annihilation campaign? Did he want a current social 
cause to replace the prewar one he finished with? 
    No one really knows now. Perhaps as more of his relics regarding 
blacks are uncovered and debated, an answer will come out. Maybe, just 
maybe, it's one of those forever latent features of Einstein that dies 
with the very Sun. 
The neglect
    At first, one would suppose that Einstein's role in the nascent 
black movement is part of the immense litterature about Albert 
Einstein. This would be more plausible with the recent mega 
celebration of Einstein with the most awesome exhibit ever. The 
exhibit opened at the American Museum of Natural History, toured the 
United States, then was permanently installed in Jerusalem in April 
2005. That was the 100th anniversary of Einstein's theory of special 
    It covered both his science work and his human work. It was filled 
with artifacts, letters, pictures, books describing how he fought for 
human rights overseas before and during World War II.
    There ws nothing at all about his interaction with American 
blacks. Nor was there any mention of blacks in the exhibit of 1979 at 
the Smithsonian Institution. That was for the 100th anniversary of 
Albert Einstein's birth. The exhibit was up to that year the largest 
exhibition about Einstein ever in the United States and included the 
unveiling of an Einstein memorial statue on the Mall. 
    Smithsonian asked journalists for suggestions to include in the 
exhibit. A few offered samples of the black support. These were not 
included for 'lack of space'. 
    Going back to about 1946, Einstein actually traveled by invite to 
Lincoln University, a black college in Pennsylvania, to give a human 
rights speech. The black new media covered the event; the other media 
ignored it. 
    In an other instance, Taylor, as librarian, was asked by one of 
the Einstein biographers for ideas and evidence. He sent copies of 
various Einstein letters for black advocacy. The biographer turned 
them down for 'lacking academic integrity'. 
    And, believe it or not, the major biographies of Einstein are 
vetted of the black era of his life! Or there is only the briefest 
note about it, among chapter after chapter about every thing else. I 
looked in a hypertext CD with four biographies. Nothing substantial 
about blacks or negroes or coloreds. 
    It is only in this 21st century that the extant material is coming 
to light and is disseminated. The principal means is via webpages, 
where typescripts and digital images of assorted papers are posted.
What happened?
    Albert Einstein became among the most scrutinized people of our 
era. He supposedly had his phone tapped and mail inspected for 
Communist subversion. Hell, we dissected his brain, preserved his 
eyeballs (no, Michael Jackson never got hold of them), and galvanized 
him back to life for his own birthday party in 2004! How could any 
aspect of his life be missed or overlooked? How come there has been so 
little routine knowledge about his relationship with early American 
black activists? 
    Jerome & Taylor had a couple suggestions but the real discussion 
and, with vocal conviction, came from the Q&A. I note a few here. 
    Were blacks not able or skilled to preserve their history? 
    Didn't blacks reach the level of caring about their history? 
    Could Einstein/s friendship with duBois and Robeson have turned 
off biographers? 
    Did the Jews want Einstein wholly as their own saint? 
    Did the nose-to-nose standoff between Jews and blacks distort 
biographical slant? 
    Did Einstein have trepidation about the blacks that dissuaded 
    There is lots more investigation to do with this emerging aspect 
of Albert Einstein. That's what the scholars, now numbering among them 
a good portion of blacks, must dig into. 
Now it's time
    Taylor & Jerome first discovered the Einstein-black era by 
speaking with longtime residents of Princeton who recalled those 
times. They compiled notes and the few vestigial papers. They could 
not find a home for their work in the usual venues, like colleges and 
    After the main civil rights movement passed into the 
implementation phase in the 1970s, they still had trouble getting 
their findings recognized. They learned of other black supporters who 
also had some Einstein items. Taylor recounted the 1979 exhibit at the 
Smithsonian, where items relating to the black experience were omitted 
from the show.
    By the 1980s and 1990s, America, certainly in the progressive 
urban centers, came around to take on black history as an integral 
part of the overall cultural fabric of the nation. I mentioned Black 
History Month during the Q&A, which in my office began about 1985; I 
really don't recall better than that. 
    The 1990s saw in New York an upswell of black participation in 
American cultural heritage. There was the restoration of Weeksville, a 
black village in Brooklyn from the early 19th century; delineation of 
Brooklyn's underground railroad network of the Civil War; contention 
about the Duffield Place house near MetroTech; black cowboy company -- 
real effing western cowboys! -- ranging the hills and dales of 
southern Brooklyn.
    Examples of black heritage rising from the 1990s beyond Brooklyn 
include 'Tuskegee airmen', a show about a black aviation unit in World 
War II; tours of Seneca Village, a black village deleted for building 
Central Park; jaw-dropping renovation of subway stations designed by 
black engineers; preservation of African Burial Ground near Foley 
    These are just a few items I pulled off the top of my head just 
within the City. All of this crescendo of 'new lands' in American 
history now allow the Jerome-Taylor work to angle for mainstreaming.. 
    Forgiving the deflated delivery by Taylor & Jerome, this is surely 
one of the more thought-rising lectures I was blessed to attend. It 
ranks up there with the Bohr-Heisenberg and the German atom bomb 
lectures, It starts to fill in major gaps in history as commonly 
dispensed in the United States.
    When I got home I did a web search. Trying 'einstein' + 'blacks' 
turned up dozens of hits, with 'blacks' being in the modern words of 
the pages. 'einstein' + 'negros' coughed; I used the modern spelling 
with no second 'e'. Correcting this to the older epoch got more dozens 
of hits. 'negroes' was in the original texts transduced to web pages. 
    February of each year is Black History Month. My own outfit, which 
owes a huge debt to Einstein's work for its very existence, 
traditionally highlights blacks in the sciences and technology. Yet I 
can not ever recall any thing at all about the black experience with 
Albert Einstein. 
    Because the Einstein-black era is so newly revealed, it reasonably 
will miss this 2006 round of Black History Month. As material gets 
more organized and disseminated, I can see that the Einstein-black 
experience will be a routine feature of Black History Month. Not only 
in my office but as widely around the world as the rest of the 
Einstein era.