Sunday, February 18, 2024

Albert Einstein: Champion of Racial Justice and Equality



The League of Historical Societies of New Jersey —


Albert Einstein: Champion of Racial Justice and Equality




Albert Einstein:

Champion of Racial Justice and Equality


Albert Einstein was a scientific genius. He greatly advanced our understanding of energy, matter, gravity, space, and time. In fact, he changed our view of how the universe works!

But he was also an ardent defender of human rights. He allied himself with African American leaders and referred to the oppression of Black people as America’s” Worst Disease.”

The New Jersey Historical Society is privileged to have on display through February 28th the pop-up exhibit “Albert Einstein: Champion of Racial Justice and Equality.” This exhibit is jointly produced by the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society and the Princeton Einstein Museum of Science with support from the McCutchen Foundation. (The New Jersey Historical Society contact information can be found at the bottom of this announcement.)

In 1931, before Einstein arrived in the United States, W.E.B. Dubois, one of the founders of the NAACP and editor of its magazine, The Crisis, asked Einstein to contribute an article on the evil of racial prejudice, to his commentary, Einstein encouraged African Americans to not let bigots destroy their self-worth. He suggested “Conscious Educational Enlightenment” as a tool to combat racism.

 When Einstein arrived in Princeton, he described his adopted home as a “paradise” where he no longer faced the Nazi threats he endured in Germany. But Princeton was also a segregated town where White and Black citizens lived separately. Albert found these circumstances abhorrent. 

The most famous scientist in the world would often be seen strolling through the streets of the segregated Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood. Many of the residents recognized the famous scientist but simply accepted him as a friendly visitor.

Shirley Satterfield, a child at the time said “Einstein didn’t look down on people. He was so nice. Sometimes I would go on walks around the Institute for Advanced Studies with Dr. Einstein holding my hand.”

 Henry Pannell said “I guess everybody my age in this community remembers seeing Einstein when we were kids…I remember him coming up and sitting on my grandmother’s porch and chatting with her.”

 In 1937 Marian Anderson, the pioneering African American singer, was refused hotel lodging after giving a recital in Princeton so Albert invited her to stay at his house instead. In the following years, the world-famous performer was a welcome guest at the Einstein home whenever she came to town.

 When Paul Robeson Founded the American Crusade Against Lynching, he invited Einstein to co-chair the organization. In 1946, Dr. Einstein wrote a letter to President Truman supporting federal legislation to officially outlaw lynching, but the bill faced heavy opposition, and shockingly, a national law prohibiting lynching did not pass until 2022.

 Dr. Einstein rarely traveled in his later years, but in 1946 he agreed to visit Lincoln University, a historically Black college in Pennsylvania. He gave a lecture on his theory of relativity and also denounced segregation during the graduation address. Lincoln awarded Einstein an honorary degree, but this distinction was ignored by the mainstream media. 

 In his own words, Albert Einstein is quoted; "As long as I have any choice in the matter, I shall live only in a country where civil liberty, tolerance, and equality of all citizens before the law prevail"

  For further information on the “Princeton Einstein Museum of Science” please visit


Contact the New Jersey Historical Society, 52 Park Place, Newark NJ 07102