Five Times Physicist Albert Einstein Stood up for Civil Rights

German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein gained international recognition and fame for his general theory of relativity, which he published more than a century ago. His theory redefined how people thought about time, gravity, and space. But the brilliant scientist was also a civil rights activist.

Albert Einstein Stood Up for Civil RightsDuring the last two decades of his life, he advocated for causes outside of physics that were dear to him. Most people know that he was an anti-war activist during the late 1920s and early 1930s. However, few know that he also confronted American racism after he relocated to the United States in 1933.

The Segregation in America Appalled Einstein

Einstein’s most significant contribution to American civil rights took place in 1946, a year in which a wave of anti-black violence spread throughout the country. Little is known about his advocacy on the matter because most mainstream media refused to publish his speeches and writings. Fortunately, there are some records of his work as an activist, and here are five times that Einstein stood up for what was right.

Einstein Participated Subtly in the Civil Rights Movement

#1: While still in Germany, Einstein backed a campaign defending the Scottsboro Boys, nine Alabama teenagers who were wrongly accused of rape by the local authorities in 1931.

#2: Einstein invited contralto opera star Marian Anderson to stay at his house when he learned that the Princeton Nassau Inn refused to rent her a room because of her skin color. Both remained close friends until the scientist’s passing in 1955.

Einstein's door was always open for opera singer Marian Anderson during her visits in Princeton#3: For years, Einstein offered his public support and encouragement to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1951, he appeared as a character witness for W. E. B. Du Bois, who was indicted as a “foreign agent” by the federal government at the age of 83. It’s believed that the scientist’s presence at the trial convinced the judge to drop the case.

#4: In 1946, Einstein gave a speech at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, a historically black higher education facility. His appearance was significant because he had made the habit of refusing all requests to speak at universities. During his speech, he supported the civil rights movement by calling racism “a disease of white people”.

Horace Mann, the president of Lincoln University presents Albert Einstein with an honorary degree in 1946
#5: During the same year, the physicist published an essay, “The Negro Question”, in Pageant magazine. His article described racism to be America’s “worst disease”

Albert Einstein believed in equality for everybody and played his role in the American civil rights movement by standing against racism and segregation.