Albert Einstein’s message to Ferguson, Missouri

Albert Einstein’s message to Ferguson, Missouri


norman lebrecht

August 11, 2015

The immortal physicist, moral philosopher and fervent violinist was so disturbed by the state of racial relations in his American homeland that in 1946 he published an agonised denunciation of ‘this deeply entrenched evil.’

The [American] sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins. Even among these there are prejudices of which I as a Jew am clearly conscious; but they are unimportant in comparison with the attitude of the “Whites” toward their fellow-citizens of darker complexion, particularly toward Negroes. The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me. I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out.

His message went, and still goes, unheard.

What, however, can the man of good will do to combat this deeply rooted prejudice? He must have the courage to set an example by word and deed, and must watch lest his children become influenced by this racial bias.

Read the full article here.




  • Itsjtime says:

    Oh my… What an awful assertion is you editorial contribution. It is widely acknowledged that America has been in constant racial/religious turmoil since the day the first white puritans arrived in an attempt to escape Europe in search of religious freedom.
    Racial injustices are coming more to light due to technology and that is a great step forward to righting the wrongs of our ancestors.

    You must surely have read the reports of demonstrations being held in many cities in America. These demonstrations are PROOF that the minority’s once silenced are continuing to make their voices heard. Their ideas for change and their incredulity towards the entrenched bias’ are a hope for the plight of all who feel discriminated against.

    Einstein was commenting on the state of race relations in America BEFORE the CIvil rights movement began in earnest.

    I hope that these current protests are a continuation of the work started no too long ago.
    Peace, Shalom, Salaam, and so forth.

    • Brian b says:

      The Ferguson “hands up, don’t shoot” meme was completely debunked and exposed as an utter falsehood by African-American head of the Department of Justice Eric Holder. This is not 1946. Pretending that it is is nonsense.

  • Edward E. Worthey says:

    It is about Einstein’s attitude to the racial problem in America at the time right after WWII. As he was escaped from Germany and became American, he writes like he is. Oh it might be great topic for an essay, all I need is to find appropriate writing service.

  • Mark Henriksen says:

    Two things to remember about the unequivocal genius, Einstein, when quoting him: (1) he was a genius in physics and he made some famously wrong intuitive statements about physics, (2) he was a good enough theoretician to revise his beliefs based on data. So, with 70 years worth of new data, he would likely revise his dated beliefs and I doubt he would see Ferguson in such simplistic terms.

    • Kevin says:

      Ok then. New data.
      Dead black bodies with no weapons on the street.
      Armed cops standing over them.
      White guys on the internet stating they were black , they deserved to get gunned down. And don’t listen to their parents saying they never did nothing wrong, they’re black of course they’re going to say that.

      Is that enough “new information” for you ?
      Because I don’t think he’d change his mind about america being racist. I think he’d say it’s gotten worse.

      • Brian b says:

        Which is why white America put an African American man into office in the most powerful position in the world twice. Minority votes don’t even begin to account for his success at the polls.

  • Itsjtime says:

    Kevin you are a sad,sad human being. NOBODY DESERVES TO BE GUNNED DOWN!!!!!!

    If we were face to face I would want to hear the details about how you developed such thoughts BEFORE I called you an idiot. Because I am a thoughtful fellow.

    I have serious doubts that you would say anything remotely related to that trash “rhetoric” in any actual public forum.I have my doubts whether or not you go outside at all.
    So, in closing I beg you to consider humanity as something larger than the hate you feel. Gunning people down is an unacceptable construct.

    • Doug Saint Carter says:

      No one should be so brainless to as to stupidly attack a policeman. Let’s not forget the police are well aware that blacks are the most racially divisive, the most selfish, the most narcissistic, the most angry and the most violent ethnic population in America. No wonder itsjtime wants to take their guns away. We should be striving for a “Color Kind America,” not a black revolution or a race war. thank you very much.

  • Greg Hlatky says:

    1946: Jews flee Europe in wake of anti-Semitic attacks.

    2015: Jews flee Europe in wake of anti-Semitic attacks.

  • Fred Jerome says:

    (“The Negro Question” that Einstein wrote in 1945 was first printed in the January, 1946, edition of Pageant magazine. It is probably, therefore, the best known of Einstein’s many anti-racist articles, essays, speeches and letters — not to mention his (perhaps even more important) anti-racist actions — all of which are contained in our book Einstein on Race and Racism, Rutgers U. Press (2005). (co-authors: Fred Jerome and Rodger Taylor)

    It is always helpful, of course, to reprint and feature Einstein’s anti-racism at whatever level, But I would urge you also to consider why Einstein’s 20-year friendship and political alliance with Paul Robeson has been completely suppressed under this nation’s longstanding “Freedom-to-Suppress” tradition. Indeed even more recent Einstein biographies which quote our (Race and Racism) book and mention Einstein’s support for Dr. W. E, B. Du Bois and his friendship with Marian Anderson carry not a single word about Einstein and Robeson. When many many (nearly 20) years ago the NY Times asked me to do an op-ed piece on Einstein, I included one sentence (one phrase really) on Einstein’s friendship with Robeson. Lo and behold, and contrary to Times policy (and possibly the copywright law), the piece appeared the next day without the sentence on Robeson. When I asked the editor, Sam Tanenhaus (a leader of the NY Times neocon contingent) why he had taken Robeson’s name out of my piece, he replied — without missing a beat — “It was too explosive.” A similar deletion of Robeson’s name almost occurred in a piece I did for (and at the request of) Physics Review, except that this time I found out about their plan and told them they would have to run the piece without my by-line if they ran it without Robeson. Unashamedly, and with no comment, they restored Robeson’s name.

    The point is that this is far from the first time a repressive regime, capitalist, Feudalist or whatever, has adopted and coopted past radical or even revolutionary heroes, leaving out only small parts of their lives. Think, Marti and Villa, and, of course, poets — Whitman, Neruda, Garcia Lorca — and many more… And clearly Einstein has been just so adopted and coopted (except for a very few maverick books and articles).

    Here are a couple of rarely cited E-quotes that seem worth spreading around:

    1. The worst disease under which the society of our nation suffers is…the treatment of the Negro….What is to be done?….First, the taboo, the “let’s-not-talk-about-it” must be broken….In our times, in which circumstances have placed great influence on international affairs {we could be] a source of health and liberation, if we learned to base out influence not on battleships and atomic bomb but on liberating creative ideas on social and world affairs — [but not ] without a just solution to the racial…problem.”

    2.”The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

  • Jackson B. says:

    Wow, Hlatky – That is a powerful time capsule.