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Einstein on Race and Racismby Fred Jerome
Synopses & Reviews
Nearly fifty years after his death, Albert Einstein remains one of America's foremost cultural icons. A thicket of materials, ranging from scholarly to popular, have been written, compiled, produced, and published about his life and his teachings. Among the ocean of Einsteinia-scientific monographs, biographies, anthologies, bibliographies, calendars, postcards, posters, and Hollywood films-however, there is a peculiar void when it comes to the connection that the brilliant scientist had with the African American community. Nowhere is there any mention of his close relationship with Paul Robeson, despite Einstein's close friendship with him, or W.E.B. Du Bois, despite Einstein's support for him.
This unique volume is the first to bring together a wealth of writings by the scientist on the topic of race. Although his activism in this area is less well known than his efforts on behalf of international peace and scientific cooperation, Einstein spoke out vigorously against racism both in the United States and around the world. Fred Jerome and Rodger Taylor suggest that one explanation for this historical amnesia is that Einstein's biographers avoided "controversial" topics, such as his friendships with African Americans and his political activities, including his involvement as co-chair of an antilynching campaign, fearing that mention of these details may tarnish the feel-good impression his image lends topics of science, history, and America.
Combining the scientist's letters, speeches, and articles with engaging narrative and historical discussions that place his public statements in the context of his life and times, this important collection not only brings attention to Einstein's antiracist public activities, but also provides insight into the complexities of antiracist culture in America. The volume also features a selection of candid interviews with African Americans who knew Einstein as children.
For a man whose words and reflections have influenced so many, it is long overdue that Einstein's thoughts on this vital topic are made easily accessible to the general public.
"Albert Einstein was a genius and, apparently, a race man. Drawing upon extensive research, authors Jerome and Taylor-a journalist and a librarian, respectively-show the Nobel Prize-winning physicist to have been fairly active in the civil rights movements of the 1940s. It's clear the authors believe that this fact constitutes some sort of hidden truth, and they're reasonably correct: numerous historians left out the details of Einstein's controversial alliances with W.E.B. Dubois, the NAACP, the Civil Rights Congress and the Southern Conference Educational Fund. The authors saturate the first half of the book with comments from the black inhabitants of Princeton's Witherspoon Street. Their quotes are anecdotal at best and show little more than that Einstein was a friendly man who wasn't afraid of black people. A few of the quotes are telling in ways the authors may not intend: 'My grandmother worked as a domestic for Einstein...When Professor Einstein had visitors, they sat and ate in the dining room; she listened from the kitchen.' Others such as 'me and my sister Lili used to watch Einstein walking up Witherspoon Street' record merely that black people witnessed Einstein's presence in their neighborhood. Einstein's provocative statements on American bigotry-'Everyone who is not used from childhood to this injustice suffers from the mere observation'-are reserved for the book's second half, which presents his letters and speeches. A useful compilation for students of Einstein's politics, this book lacks the kind of strong narrative thread that might have brought it a wider audience. 8 pages of b&w photos. " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Nearly 50 years after his death, this unique volume is the first to bring together a wealth of writings by Einstein on the topic of race. Although his activism in this area is less well known than his efforts on behalf of international peace and scientific cooperation, Einstein spoke out vigorously against racism both in the United States and around the world.
About the Author
Fred Jerome is the author of The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover's Secret War against the World's Most Famous Scientist . A veteran journalist and science writer, his articles and op-ed pieces have appeared in dozens of publications, including Newsweek, Technology Review, and the New York Times. He has taught journalism at Columbia Journalism School, New York University, and numerous other New York-area universities. Rodger Taylor , a supervising branch librarian with the New York Public Library, is also a freelance writer. His articles on city life, early African American New York, and the African Burial Ground have been published in local newspapers and magazines, including several in New York Newsday.
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