Guess who would have celebrated 85 years today….

Martin Luther King, Jr. became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for doing work to end racial segregation and discrimination in 1964.

That was 50 years ago!! Imagine what he would have done if he had lived to be 85!

haven't learned to wald as brothers and sisters mlk

mlk-peace represents

two jrs

because he was smart

Marian Anderson and Albert Einstein were friends!! Like, friends. Not acquaintances. I am related to Marian Anderson and she hung out with Einstein. Considering the purposefully reposted quote along side Einstein’s notion that the limiters of potential are limited as well, I imagine they had some profound conversations.  That’s nearly as impressive to me as her “dissing” the D.A.R. by singing on the steps outside in response to their choice to disrespect her in honor of the organization’s racial exclusion policy.

Anyway, here’s more on Einstein’s stand for equality. It was a lot more involved than delivering a speech at a University, and there are many more details here than in the article posted yesterday.  Not that the speech wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought. It was!  Not only was Mr. Einstein brave enough to speak out, he did it while he was ill.  Outside.  Ok, it was May, so maybe the weather was fine, but I’m just saying if he was looking for an excuse not to speak, sounds like he had it, but chose not to use it.  Instead, he got up there and spoke to the impressionable minds of the “first institution found anywhere in the world to provide a higher education in the arts and sciences for male youth of African descent.”  If young African American males today are largely still in need of academic encouragement and inspiration and respect, I can only imagine how impactful and empowering Einstein’s presence alone was pre Brown vs. Board of Ed.  Just the simple fact that he spoke, and the forbidden, unspoken truth contained in his words.  I have a feeling this brilliant man knew exactly what he was doing.

Albert Einstein, I acknowledge your greatness as a champion of human and civil rights and your hand in illuminating the fact that limiting the potential of a significant portion of society limits everyone in that society

Thank you.




Albert Einstein at Lincoln University

(photo of Marian Anderson in background?)

Albert Einstein passionately fought race prejudice, according to new and old docs

by Ronda Racha Penrice

Nearly 60 years after his death, the great scientist Albert Einstein is still making headlines. The launch of Einstein Archives Online — a more advanced repository of his work — is a long-term collaboration by Israel’s Hebrew University, which he co-founded, California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where he was a guest faculty member on several occasions, and Princeton University, where he was a faculty member, generated global attention on March 19. Eventually, over 80,000 documents held in Hebrew University’s Albert Einstein Archives and Caltech’s Einstein Papers Project will be available on the Internet. About 2,000 are currently available.

Despite this unprecedented access, however, one thing hasn’t changed: Einstein’s strong support of African-American civil rights and his defiant stance against racism are largely footnotes, especially for the mainstream press. While it will, no doubt, be exciting to pull up correspondence between Einstein and W.E.B. Du Bois one day, his association with Du Bois was just the tip of the iceberg.

Einstein, as documented in the 2003 book Einstein on Race and Racism by veteran science writer and journalist Fred Jerome, who also covered civil rights activity in the South in the 1960s, and New York librarian Rodger Taylor whose early writings have focused on jazz and early African-American life in New York, staunchly denounced racism and segregation in the United States, even as his health steadily failed and his own mortality drew nearer.

Jerome first delved into Einstein’s human rights advocacy in his 2002 book, The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret War Against the World’s Most Famous Scientist. In that groundbreaking work, Jerome highlighted a May 3, 1946 speech Einstein gave at historic Lincoln University, the alma mater of both Thurgood Marshall and Langston Hughes and, as its then president Horace Mann Bond pointed out, “the first institution found anywhere in the world to provide a higher education in the arts and sciences for male youth of African descent.” Interestingly, a young Julian Bond, Horace Mann Bond’s son, was there that day.

The speech was especially significant because, as Jerome also writes in The Einstein File, “During the last twenty years of his life, Einstein almost never spoke at universities.” He routinely turned down almost all of the honorary degree requests he received.

On top of that, Einstein’s health was not the greatest. Yet, he stood outdoors to receive his honorary degree from Lincoln University, which can actually be viewed on the Einstein Archives Online now, and, even more importantly, spoke these poignant words reported in the Baltimore Afro-American May 11, 1946: “There is 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.”

And he was not. Einstein, as Jerome notes in his essay The Hidden Half-Life of Albert Einstein: Anti-Racism for the Journal of the Research Group of Socialism and Democracy Online, spoke these words in a time known by some as “the Bloody Spring of 1946” because it was just after black men had returned from World War II to the harsh reality that the Double V campaign, which The Pittsburgh Courier especially championed, had succeeded in saving the world from Hitler, but had not destroyed racism at home. 

On February 25, 1946, William Fleming, a white radio repairman, assaulted Ms. Gladys Stephenson, a black woman, and her son James, a Navy veteran, defended her, resulting in both of their arrests. When some white men, including four policemen, headed towards the black side of town, known as Mink Slide, later that evening, they found that a group of veterans had organized themselves for self-defense, and shots were fired.

“African-Americans firing on white policemen was enough for the governor to rush in 500 State Troopers with submachine guns who attacked Mink Slide, destroying virtually every black-owned business in the four-square-block area, seizing whatever weapons they could find, and arresting more than one hundred black men,” writes Jerome.

Twenty-five of the black men arrested were indicted for attempted murder. Einstein immediately joined the National Committee for Justice in Columbia, Tennessee, headed by Eleanor Roosevelt and also supported by Mary McLeod Bethune, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Joe Louis, A. Phillip Randolph and Langston Hughes that March. With Thurgood Marshall serving as the chief defense attorney, 24 of the 25 men were acquitted.

The violence didn’t stop in Columbia. On July 26, the heinous murder of two black men, one a veteran, and their wives in Monroe, Georgia was even reported by the New York Times. As with the majority of these acts of domestic terrorism, justice was not served. Einstein was outraged enough to lend his prominence to actor and activist Paul Robeson’s American Crusade to End Lynching (ACEL) that September.

Despite being too ill to participate in the mass rally at the Lincoln Memorial on September 23, 1946 (the day after Lincoln proposed the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in 1862), Einstein penned a brief letter to President Truman confirming his support of the ACEL.

“May I wholeheartedly endorse the aims of this delegation, in the conviction that the overwhelming majority of the American people is demanding that every citizen be guaranteed protection from acts of violence,” he wrote. That same month, Einstein penned a much longer letter in support of the National Urban League Convention that highlighted the economic injustices, among other inequalities, experienced by black Americans.

When the Nassau Inn in Princeton refused Marian Anderson lodging during her 1937 concert there, Einstein invited her into his home as a guest and they maintained a friendship. Anderson actually stayed in the Einstein home in 1955 two months before his death. Before Einstein even came to this country permanently in 1933, he responded to a 1931 letter written to him by Du Bois, who had studied at the University of Berlin where Einstein was on the faculty, to write something small against racism to be published in The Crisis. Later, Einstein supported Du Bois even as Senator McCarthy placed him at the top of his target list.

From the Scottsboro Boys case to the numerous attempts to stop the execution of Willie McGee, a black Mississippi sharecropper accused of raping a white woman, and efforts to prevent New Jersey from extraditing Sam Buckhannon, a black Georgian who had escaped a chain gang after serving 18 years for stealing a pack of cigarettes, Einstein used his fame to condemn American racism.

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 follow Jerome’s lead, and acknowledge Einstein’s greatness as a champion of human and civil rights for African-Americans as one of his greatest contributions to the world.

old paris, eiffel

Excerpted from a blog post by Rodger Taylor on a presentation in Paris about Einstein and racism:

The Book in Bed presentation was by far the largest audience — it seemed a hundred or so people. Half of them appeared to be high school aged.

“Einstein was White. Why should or did he care about racism?” — was a question asked by a French high school student. The question sparked conversation and also framed our presentation the next day.

Some of the responses as to why included:

Because Einstein was smart.

Because he realized that limiting the potential of a significant portion of society limits everyone in that society.

Because he was empathetic — and if he could imagine what is was like to be a beam of light projected into space, he could imagine what it was like to be black in America.

Because he got to know black people on a personal basis — both in the town of Princeton where he lived and beyond and that made a signficiant difference in how he felt about the racism they experienced.

just thought we should know

David M. French Dies at 86

Ever wonder who tended to the injuries of demonstrators brutalized during the civil rights protests of the 1960s? David M. French, a former Howard University professor of pediatric surgery and one of the first African-American board certified surgeons, coordinated many of those first aid efforts, as just one piece of a long career that merged medicine and public service. He died March 31 at the age of 86.

David M. French (Ellsworth Davis/Washington Post)

After witnessing firsthand the lack of quality health care available to blacks in the South at civil rights protests (he once converted his family van into an ambulance to lead a medical unit overseeing the care of Mississippi activists demonstrating against racism), French became committed to improving the health of underserved people and began to focus on preventative and community medicine.

French founded Boston University’s department of community health in 1969. He also established a network of community health centers in Boston before moving to Ivory Coast in the 1970s. There, he led an effort to train nurses and improve public health in 20 countries across the continent.

French returned to the United States in the mid-1980s and retired to Barboursville, Va. But his work didn’t end then. He went on to serve as medical director of Helen Keller International, a New York-based nonprofit organization that runs public health programs in developing countries. More recently, he served as medical officer for the nonprofit service and development African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Read more at The Washington Post.

making the best of it

Taking into consideration the lunch counter sit-ins of 1960, I think this is a remarkable story…

Area Woolworth’s first black sales clerk calls hiring proud moment

Jean Fisher Curry was hired in 1961 to work a cosmetics counter in the front of the store.

By Tom Stafford

SPRINGFIELD — There were no lunging police dogs with bared fangs, no fire hoses knocking people to the ground, no instigators putting cigarettes out in the hair of protesters at lunch counter sit-ins.

The first apparent outward sign that Springfield’s F.W. Woolworth store would have its first ‘‘Negro’’ employee — to use the word customary at the time — was a note Jean Fisher, 15, received in class during the fall of 1961, her junior year at South High School.

“I was never in trouble,” said Jean Fisher Curry of Springfield. So when she got the note from the counselor’s office, “I thought, what did I do?”

It wasn’t what she did that was notable but rather what she was about to do.

Like other Distributive Education students, she was told she’d have to meet the standards: keep a B average and take special classes in the department.

“I think (Distributive Education) was the forerunner of the vocational school,” Curry explained.

But if she met the standards, she could work at Woolworth’s — the downtown one at High and Limestone streets.

The importance of that was not lost on Curry: “They didn’t have black people working in the store.”

A happy clerk

“I thought I’d be cleaning,” Curry said.

That might have been OK. Her mother had done that for years in what was called “private family work” — working as a domestic at the Tanglewood Drive home of Seymour and Anne Klein.

Jean Curry hugs her mother, Alberta Fisher, whose encouraging words helped her break new ground as the first black sales clerk at Springfield's Woolworth store. Staff photo by Marshall Gorby

Jean Curry hugs her mother, Alberta Fisher, whose encouraging words helped her break new ground as the first black sales clerk at Springfield’s Woolworth store. Photo by Marshall Gorby.

Being a domestic “never bothered her,” Curry said, “because that was honest work.”

And when the Kleins asked Alberta Fisher to run the lunch counter at Victory Lanes, it showed “they trusted her,” Curry said. “And she was happy with that.”

The job at Woolworth’s wasn’t a cleaning job, however — likely because the Distributive Education program didn’t train people for that task.

“They told me it was a sales clerk,” said Curry,” and I said, ‘Yeah.’ ”

As it turned out, her post would be at the cosmetics counter in front of the store, where she’d be seen by all who walked in the main entrance.

The sightings began soon after she turned 16 on Sept. 15, 1961, and got her work permit.

Shades of discrimination

Curry discovered a shade of racial reasoning involved in her placement in the store.

“They hired a black girl from North and me from South,” she explained. “Because I was light (-skinned), I worked at the front of the store. Because she was darker she worked in the back of the store with the pets.”

Asked whether that was the real reason for the assignments, Curry was emphatic: “There’s no doubt. I knew it, she knew it, and she resented it.”

Curry said that colored her attitude toward her own work: “What was I going to be mad about? I didn’t feel discrimination like somebody darker.”

The attitude ran in her family.

When the census came, the light-skinned Curries listed their race as mulatto., and in the militant black pride era, they joked about being “high yellow.”

Still, they had to follow rules of the racial road.

Springfield then was a town in which blacks weren’t allowed in the Liberty Theater and in which blacks were suspicious of drinking out of segregated fountains, wondering what white people put in them.

Blacks also tended to “stay within our culture,” Curry said, taking the elevator in the Arcade to the music store that catered to their tastes and frequenting the Center Street YMCA.

Woolworth’s also had its rules: Blacks could order only carry-out from the food counter.

And when Curry started, “we were told when we gave people change to lay it on the counter,” she said, thus avoiding problems with white customers who were uncomfortable having physical contact with blacks.

“But like I told (the girl from North),” Curry added, “we may get some money.”

At first, the pay was 65 cents an hour. The following year, it would go up to 85 cents — this in an era when $1 an hour was considered decent pay, Curry said.

In her youthful enthusiasm, “I didn’t think it was a job. I thought it was a career.”

In the same spirit, Curry, who knew that the actress Betty Hutton’s sister, Barbara, was part owner of the chain, half expected one or the other Hutton sister to show up some day, coming through the front door right into her area.

When she told people she worked at Woolworth’s “I always said ‘F.W.’ like I knew him.”

“I couldn’t even tell you what F.W. stood for.”

Her mother and God

The non-Hutton whites who came into her area in the front of the store fell into a couple of categories, Curry said.

“The older ones, the little white-haired ladies, they liked me,” she said.

“They were used to black people working in their homes and knowing their place. And I knew my place.”

“The other ones, I had to grow on them,” she said.

And she did, using the enthusiasm and bedrock values her mother taught her.

Part of it was common courtesy. “I was always very friendly. You just do that,” Curry said.

Also, “we were very religious,” she said. “We went to church. I think God had a place in that.

Constantly on her mind at that time was the desire “to make my mom and dad proud of me,” Curry said.

Finally, there was the work ethic her mother sought to instill in her children.

Throughout their childhoods, Mrs. Fisher recited a saying to her children to encourage them to do the best they could in everything they did.

“She said it so much to me that I knew it by heart,” Curry said.

All that you do, do with your might.  Things done by half are never done right.  All that you do, do with a zeal.  Those that reach the top, have to climb the hill.

Touching moments

If some of the white people of the time were uncomfortable touching blacks, the black friends and family who came to the store were the opposite.

They’d reach out, touch her and say “It’s so good to see you” when they came in, Curry recalled.

Her mother was especially proud.

“Out of all the girls, they chose her to be there,” said Mrs. Fisher, now 91, who also lives in Springfield.

“I was excited about it, really I was,” she continued. “All my whole family — my sisters, everyone — I was just telling everybody. And I still tell it now.”

Curry said the Woolworth’s experience helped her to feel a part of the larger community.

Already with a sense that Woolworth’s was a cut above the competitors of Kresge and McCrory’s, Curry soon got to know the downtown merchants as they stopped into Woolworth’s — people like William Greene, owner of an exclusive dress shop.

“I could go into stores and they’d let me lay things away. A lot of time black people couldn’t go into those stores,” she said.

Knowing as a customer, the mistress of one of the downtown businessmen also marked her as an insider.

“I felt like I was part of Springfield because I was doing those things,” Curry said.

“It wasn’t that I wanted to be white. I was being accepted for who I was, making the best of it. And I said some day I’ll tell these stories to my grandchildren, and they’ll love it.”


civil rights instruction

I’m thrilled to learn that Mississippi is mandating civil rights instruction for al K-12 students.  They’re the first and only state to do so!  Maybe this will lead to the eradication of segregated proms there.  And maybe even to honest, well- rounded history books/classes throughout the country.  Be the change, Mississippi!


JACKSON, Miss. — In Mississippi, where mention of the Civil Rights Movement evokes images of bombings, beatings and the Ku Klux Klan, public schools are preparing to test a program that will ultimately teach students about the subject in every grade from kindergarten through high school.

Many experts believe the effort will make Mississippi the first state to mandate civil rights instruction for all K-12 students.

So far, four school systems have asked to be part of a pilot effort to test the curriculum in high schools. In September, the Mississippi Department of Education will name the systems that have been approved for the pilot. By the 2010-2011 school year, the program should be in place at all grade levels as part of social studies courses.

Advocacy groups such as the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation and Washington-based Teaching for Change are preparing to train Mississippi teachers to tell the “untold story” of the civil rights struggle to the nearly half million students in the state’s public schools.

“Now more than ever we are engaged in national debates about race and so much of those debates are impoverished in their understanding of history,” said Susan Glissen of the Winter Institute. “We want to emphasize the grassroots nature of civil rights and the institution of racism.”


…Education officials looked to other states for a model but couldn’t find one that included anything as comprehensive as what Mississippi has in mind, said Chauncey Spears, who works in the curriculum and instruction office of Mississippi’s education agency.

The Education Commission of the States didn’t know of any other state with a such a program, although it does not specifically track social studies curriculum.

Some states, including Alabama, Georgia and Arkansas, have placed an emphasis on civil rights instruction. New Jersey created an Amistad Commission to ensure the history of slavery is taught in schools. Pennsylvania’s Philadelphia school district requires students to complete an African-American history course before graduation.

“We’re behind time. Students don’t know about what Blacks did. They’re not taught anything about culture, about our history,” said Ollye Shirley, a member of the commission created to research the Mississippi curriculum and a former Jackson Public School board member.


…Deborah Menkart, executive director of Teaching for Change, said it’s important to help students understand that Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weren’t the only important figures in the Civil Rights Movement.

“The traditional version would be that it started in 1954, thereby leaving out the fact that a lot of groundwork had to be done before that,” Menkart said.