In the 1940s Einstein spoke out vigorously against racism both in the United States and around the world, calling racism America’s “worst disease.
While teaching at Princeton University, Einstein reportedly “realized that African Americans in Princeton were treated like Jews in Germany.” The notable scientist once paid the college tuition of a young Black man from the local community; he also allowed African Americans to stay at his house when hotels refused them.
Einstein was a member of the NAACP, co-chairing a committee to end lynching. In 1946 he gave the commencement speech at Lincoln University, a historically black college, where he taught the theory of relativity to physics students. During that visit, Einstein said, “The separation of the races is not a disease of the colored people, but a disease of the white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.”
Lincoln University, located in Pennsylvania, is the alma mater of Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall, and the first school in America to grant college degrees to blacks. Einstein was presented with an honorary doctorate from the university by Horace Mann Bond, a leader in the developing civil rights movement. Bond’s six-year-old son Julian was at the ceremony. Einstein told young Julian that he should “never remember anything that was already written down.” Many years later Julian Bond became the head of the NAACP.