Albert Einstein Called Racism “A Disease of White People” in His Little-Known Fight for Civil Rights

Albert_Einstein_Head

Albert Einstein’s activities as a passionate advocate for peace were well-documented during his lifetime. His celebrity as a famous physicist and one of the world’s most recognizable faces lent a great deal of weight to his pacifism, a view otherwise not given much consideration in the popular press at almost any time in history. However, according to a 2006 book titled Einstein on Race and Racism by Fred Jerome and Roger Taylor, the scientist was also as passionate about combating racism and segregation as he was about combating war. This facet of Einstein’s life was virtually ignored by the media, as was a visit he made in 1946 to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the first degree-granting college for African-Americans and the alma mater of Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall.

Invited to Lincoln to receive an honorary degree, Einstein gave a lecture on physics but also bluntly addressed the racial animus that held the country in its grip, reportedly calling racism, “a disease of white people” and saying he “did not intend to be quiet” about his opposition to segregation and racist public policy. Lest anyone think the Nobel-prize-winning physicist was pandering to his audience, the Harvard Gazette offers a comprehensive summary of Einstein’s support of progressive anti-racist causes, including his personal support of members of Princeton’s black community (he paid one man’s college tuition), a town Princeton native Paul Robeson once called “the northernmost town in the south.”

Einstein formed relationships with several prominent black leaders—inviting opera singer Marian Anderson to stay in his home after she was refused a room at the Nassau Inn and appearing as a character witness for W.E.B. Dubois when the latter stood accused of “failing to register as a foreign agent.” But it was his 20-year friendship with Robeson that seems central to his involvement in civil rights causes. The Harvard Gazette writes:

Einstein met Paul Robeson when the famous singer and actor came to perform at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre in 1935. The two found they had much in common. Both were concerned about the rise of fascism, and both gave their support to efforts to defend the democratically elected government of Spain against the fascist forces of Francisco Franco. Einstein and Robeson also worked together on the American Crusade to End Lynching, in response to an upsurge in racial murders as black soldiers returned home in the aftermath of World War II.

At the time of the Gazette article, 2007, a movie about Einstein and Robeson’s friendship was apparently in the works, with Danny Glover as Robeson and Ben Kingsley as Einstein. The project is apparently stalled, but with the upsurge in popular interest in the history of civil rights—with the overturning of the Voting Rights Act and the widespread coverage of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington—perhaps the project will see new life soon. I certainly hope so.

via PourMeCoffee

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MLK’s Last Days and Final Speech

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness



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by | Permalink | Comments (22) |

  • Pseu

    Huh. So Albert Einstein was racist. Learn something new every day.

  • libtekhed

    Old Albert never had any dealings with the Japanese then if he believes only white people are racist…

  • carolad

    Kudos to Einstein. The sad fact of the matter is that racism has been prevalent since the beginning of time whether it was religious racism or race related. We have come a long way in this country since the sixties but we have a long way go yet. It’s sad that there are so many people today who are more interested in fanning the flames than really solving the problem.

  • Pepper

    I’m glad Einstein was courageous enough to make this statement in regards to American racism. Americans never want to HONESTLY speak about racism and how it’s tearing this country apart. Racism is still very prevalent today and only because no one wants to have an honest conversation. There is no understanding of what racism is and now people think that when you call out some white people on their racist behavior then lo and behold that person is racist. Talking about racism and its origin is not about blaming but about examining ones beliefs, behavior and ones reactions to racist beliefs and behaviors. When Americans grow up and learn to speak about race openly and honestly will we grow as a country where ALL the citizens are seen as equal and afforded equal opportunity.

  • http://www.soundcloud.com/limubaibeatz Li580

    Actually racism didn’t exist until about the 1500′s. Back when Greece and Rome were fisrt blossoming many of the famous(Herodotus, Strabo, Hippocrates,etc) pay their respects to Africans. In fact many of the Europeans would travel to Egypt/Ethiopia for learning. There were many African generals in the roman army and there were 3-4 African popes. Racism can be unlearned…but it takes courage. We all need each other’s help tho.

  • Jack

    white people are racist because they have been allowed to achieve a lot through killing people from other racial groups!. and these people havent had enough will to defend themselves

  • JJ

    Said by a “White Man” you should know because your race created and now defines racism. How about the White people who made and dropped a bomb on those racist Japanese. FYI you’re forehead is abnormally large….

  • JJ

    Again so only white people have the will to do what it takes? In Germany they have just past law for a new 3rd gender, this is the legacy of racism at its height. That now recessive gene can be passed on to other races, that is why they raped and killed to preserve and sustain the European features that define race.

  • Supergirl

    Your statement is incorrect. As “Li580″ pointed out, the construct of “race” did not really exist until around the 16th century and is thought to have originated with the Portuguese. The word you are looking for is “prejudice”. People have always been prejudiced against foreigners and probably always will be. However, that’s more a matter of nationalism and fear of the unknown than anything else, which even lesser animals exhibit. Racism, however, is the belief that your race is superior to another. A very different and far more dangerous idea altogether as one can eventually cease to be seen as foreigner once enough time passes and some other new group arises. One cannot however change the physical markers that societal constructs force on each “race” of people.

  • Supergirl

    Your statement is incorrect. As “Li580″ pointed out, the construct of “race” did not really exist until around the 16th century and is thought to have originated with the Portuguese. The word you are looking for is “prejudice”. People have always been prejudiced against foreigners and probably always will be. However, that’s more a matter of nationalism and fear of the unknown than anything else, which even lesser animals exhibit. Racism, however, is the belief that your race is superior to another. A very different and far more dangerous idea altogether as one can eventually cease to be seen as foreigner once enough time passes and some other new group arises. One cannot however change the physical markers that societal constructs force on each “race” of people.

  • Supergirl

    Your statement is incorrect. As “Li580″ pointed out, the construct of “race” did not really exist until around the 16th century and is thought to have originated with the Portuguese. The word you are looking for is “prejudice”. People have always been prejudiced against foreigners and probably always will be. However, that’s more a matter of nationalism and fear of the unknown than anything else, which even lesser animals exhibit. Racism, however, is the belief that your race is superior to another. A very different and far more dangerous idea altogether as one can eventually cease to be seen as foreigner once enough time passes and some other new group arises. One cannot however change the physical markers that societal constructs force on each “race” of people.

  • Supergirl

    You clearly don’t understand the meaning of the word.

  • Supergirl

    You clearly don’t understand the meaning of the word.

  • Supergirl

    You clearly don’t understand the meaning of the word.

  • Sam Malloy

    That was just incoherent ramble. Would you care to re-write that nonsense into something that makes a bit of sense. They passed a law of what? 3rd gender? And how does rape have to do anything? Are you a loony. No you’re totally a loony.

  • Sam Malloy

    I agree. Also it’s not just racism from the whites anymore. It’s racism from all sides. EVERYONE needs to become more tolerant. Although at the time of Einstein the racism, especially in the government was coming from whites obviously.

  • _tjb-E9d4d

    Step 1: write post about Einstein being against racism.

    Step 2: watch racists complain.

  • sherlock holmes

    Racism IS American culture. The whole culture itself is racist. American culture is a white supremacy culture, where whites have more power in this society than nonwhites. After 500 years, we still favor the lighter skin than the darker skin in America, such as employment hiring, hollywood films, dating, education system, justice system, etc. Racism has not gotten better over time. It is only the form of racism that has evolved over time. America was born out of racism and genocide. It’s the first nation in the world that was born racist. We are all racists in America, we all judge each other base on racial stereotypes on the first impression. And the stereotypes are reinforced by the media.

    Like I always said “If you ain’t racist enough, you ain’t American enough.”

  • sherlock holmes

    White supremacy is an idea. White supremacists are people who believe or promote the idea of white supremacy. And you don’t need to be wearing pointy white hats nor having a swastika tattoo to be one. In fact, you don’t even need to be white to be a white supremacist. We all believe in white supremacy, especially in America.

    We all say we love chinese food and mexican food. But if I ask you to pick a restaurant for your anniversary, how likely how you gonna pick a chinese or mexican restaurant? No, white supremacy culture promotes that we should go to french or italian because they are “higher class” than chinese or mexican.

    Name the world famous artists. Are they all white? Or majority are white? White supremacy cultural education system taught us that European artists are the ones we should idolize, they are the ones we should follow. Another promotion of white supremacy.

    Not only our behavior has been conditioned to white supremacy by American culture, our way of thinking is too.

  • Humanistic Revolution

    The Isis Papers explains much of the issue of racism pretty well.
    I am connected spiritually to all my people who were torn from their homes and forced into slavery.
    The British so called empire is built on the profit of this filthy trade so when an uneducated english man tells me to get out of his country I tell him to in fact get out of My land.
    You see, the surfer these simple people use on their cereals, the art galleries they visit to pretend that they are civilized and cultured all exits directly because of my brother’s and sister’s who died in the mist brutal of ways.
    The German royal family in this country were involved in this trade of human kidnap.
    The Elephant and Castle
    tube station and various pubs of that name are named so to CELEBRATE the sheer evil connection the royal family had and still has with slavery.
    The Jamaican Prime Minister understandably asked for The british to give up all colonial power of land, what happened?
    The simpleton fake disgusting so called majority in this country shouted this idea down through various media outlets and harry was sent to Jamaica to tell the Prime Minister to shut up her bloodclart on such matters.
    Who ever says the effects of slavery, colonialism both heavily related are over are living in a fairy world.

  • Humanistic Revolution

    I meant sugar as in Lyle and Tate.
    I try my hardest to see good in ALL people but it is sometimes hard when you are aware there is a conscious effect to cull humans of melaninated skin which is everyone not white skinned.
    From forced sterilization in Israel of the Eithiopian Jews to the African girls and women in AS and elsewhere to continually oppressing or trying to oppress all people with melanin.
    Particularly in the U.S the white population has decreased for the under 5′s, in short while not everywhere but in certain locations and in relation to specific demographics white people as we know are declining and this can not be allowed to happen.
    So set up and encourage abortion of Black babies but call it ‘Planned Parenthood’.
    Another way to carry out eugenics in order to maintain the status quo regarding population rates of whites.
    Not all white persons are overtly racist but they do ALL benefit from the well thought out spoken and unspoken dynamic of white supremacy.
    This insidious construct gets US from young, at school and continues.
    The tv and so on.
    Thankfully I will NOT allow my brain to be washed by this evil.
    Marcus Garvey, X, Dr Frances Cresling have washed my brain of the indoctrination and so This shall continue.

  • Humanistic Revolution

    I am typing from my fiddly phone.
    Apologies for the errors.
    One last thing racism IS a diseased of white individuals however some are honest enough ( not fake liberals white guilt,no tolerance for such vibes)to objectively and subjectively acknowledge this reality.
    The Maios received compensation as did the Jews, what is so different about African humans?
    More humans died during the Atlantic slave trade!

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