NEW JERSEY WEEKLY DESK   | December 18, 2005
BY THE WAY: More Than Just a Physicist
By Robert Strauss
Albert Einstein's hound-dog face and unruly white hair were well known in Princeton, where he lived the last decades of his life. He was an icon of science, peace and general intellectual pursuits. Less well known, though, are his writings about race, and how living in Princeton, with its vibrant middle-class African-American community, influenced him in what were then progressive racial views.

A new book, ''Einstein on Race and Racism'' (Rutgers University Press, $23.95) by Fred Jerome and Rodger Taylor, is a pithy story about Einstein and his somewhat obscured life as an advocate of civil rights. Mr. Jerome, whose book ''The Einstein File'' (St. Martin's Griffin, 2002) detailed J. Edgar Hoover's obsession with finding negative things about Einstein, and Mr. Taylor, a New York librarian who has written about jazz and early African-American life in New York, describe Mr. Einstein's friendship with the famous Princeton native Paul Robeson, who was pilloried by the right for his political views during the cold war. Mr. Einstein also corresponded with W. E. B. Du Bois, whose writings in the early 20th century about racial discrimination influenced later civil rights advocates. ''Racism is America's worst disease,'' Einstein once wrote to Mr. Du Bois. ''This prejudice is still alive and powerful.''

 
ADVANCE PRAISE:

“For many people around the world, Einstein’s name is a household word, and yet Fred Jerome and Rodger Taylor’s important new book reveals in startling ways how little we know about his profound insights into the realities of race and racism. We owe Fred and Rodger a huge debt of gratitude.

- Danny Glover
   

“A fascinating and timely upgrade to our current perceptions of Einstein, redeemed from the careful silences of official narrative. Allowing the voices of the people who lived it to tell the story, Jerome and Taylor have brilliantly given us back a part of our history, refocusing attention on the heart and soul of what Einstein’s life was always about.”  

- Thomas Pynchon
   

“Thanks to Fred Jerome and Rodger Taylor, we have unimpeachable evidence that the ‘Man of the Century’ wrestled fearlessly and insightfully with what his friend W.E.B. Du Bois termed the century’s greatest problem: the color line. This is one of the year’s most important books.”

- Michael Eric Dyson,
author of The Michael Eric Dyson Reader
   

“This book tells the story of how Einstein reacted to the racism he saw around him, and to the fight against it by Princeton’s long-established black community. It is a fascinating story and, unfortunately for our country, it is not just history but a contribution to contemporary struggles against American racism, at home and abroad.”

  - John Stachel, director of the Center for Einstein Studies, Boston University and founding editor of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein
   

“This book continues the process of peeling back the politics of Albert Einstein to reveal a vital (and up to now invisible) layer of antiracism activities. It demonstrates, through Einstein’s example, how not to ‘stand idly by’ in the face of America’s most pernicious problem—racism.”

   - Dorothy M. Zellner, civil rights activist and staff member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, 1962–1967
   

“Fred Jerome and Rodger Taylor show us a side—an important side—of the great physicist and pacifist that anyone interested in the man, and his times, will find eye-opening.”

  - Sharon Begley, science writer and co-author of The Mind and the Brain
   

“This is insightful scholarship that explores race and racism, drawing on the analytical insights of innovative giants of divergent social and professional recognition.”

  – Prosper Godonoo, director, Paul Robeson Cultural Center, Rutgers University
   

“This is a very unusual book, for it shows through narrative, Einstein's writing, and interviews a much-neglected aspect of a man, who deservedly became a symbol of wisdom of modern times – his continuing struggle against racism and his personal concern for the African-American community.”

  – Roald Hoffmann, Nobel-prize winning chemist, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Cornell University.
 
Publisher's Weekly
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. . . . 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.