“Princeton University Does Not Discriminate…”: African American Exclusion at Princeton

Bruce Wright applied for admission to Princeton University in the 1930s, having spent some of his childhood living in its shadow in Princeton, New Jersey. He was excited to be awarded a scholarship, and showed up in the fall ready to start as a freshman. So far as the Dean of Admissions was concerned, however, there was just one problem: Wright was black, and the Admissions Office hadn’t known that when they offered him a place among white Princetonians. Though many students who stood in line to register with Wright were not at all resistant to having him there, Dean Radcliffe Heermance (Graduate Class of 1909) decided that Princeton would not accept him as one of its own. In a later interview, Wright recalled, Heermance had told him: “If you’re trying to come here, you’re going someplace where you’re not wanted.” With no other recourse he could see, Wright went outside, sat down on his suitcase, and waited for his father to drive down from New York to pick him up.

The words lingered in Wright’s mind. “I was shattered, and I became more so as time went on,” Wright said. “For some reason I persisted in writing to Heermance to demand to know why. Was I a danger, a menace to a great university?”

This was Heermance’s answer:

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Mudd Manuscript Library Summer Fellowship Available

The Mudd Manuscript Library, a unit of Princeton University Library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, offers the John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Archival Fellowship for one graduate student each year. This fellowship provides a summer of work experience for a graduate student interested in pursuing an archival career.

The 2015 Fellow will focus primarily on technical services but will also gain experience in public services. Under the guidance of the Digital Archivist and Public Policy Papers Archivist, the Fellow will conduct a survey of digital media held within the University Archives and Public Policy Papers. The Fellow will then process select born-digital collections in accordance with the Library’s priorities and the Fellow’s interests. Additionally, the Fellow will participate in the reference rotation and conduct research for an upcoming exhibition on the Princeton Triangle Club. As time allows, the Fellow will assist with projects to enhance existing description in finding aids and curate a small exhibition on the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Japan. Previous Fellows and their work are listed here.

The Mudd Library is a state-of-the-art repository housing the Princeton University Archives and a highly regarded collection of 20th-century public policy papers. The more than 35,000 linear feet of archival and manuscript material are widely used by local, national, and international researchers. More than 2,000 visitors use Mudd Library’s reading room each year, and its staff field some 2,000 electronic, mail, and telephone inquiries annually. A progressive processing program, the use of new technologies, and an emphasis on access and public service have ensured that Mudd Library’s collections are ever more accessible.

The ten- to twelve-week fellowship program, which may be started as early as May, provides a stipend of $775 per week. In addition, travel, registration, and hotel costs to the Society of American Archivists’ annual meeting in August will be reimbursed.

Requirements: Successful completion of at least twelve graduate semester hours (or the equivalent) applied toward an advanced degree in archives, library or information management, American history, American studies, or museum studies; demonstrated interest in the archival profession; and good organizational and communication skills. At least twelve undergraduate semester hours (or the equivalent) in American history is preferred. The Library highly encourages applicants from under-represented communities to apply.

To apply: Applicants should submit a cover letter and resume to: mudd@princeton.edu. Additionally, applicants should have two letters of recommendation sent to mudd@princeton.edu directly from the persons making the recommendation. Applications must be received by Monday, March 9, 2015. Skype interviews will be conducted with the top candidates, and the successful candidate will be notified in late March.

Please note: University housing will not be available to the successful candidate. Interested applicants should consider their housing options carefully and may wish to consult the online campus bulletin board for more information on this topic.

This Week in Princeton History for February 2-8

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a junior saves two friends after an avalanche, Tiger Inn holds its first coed bicker, and more.

February 2, 1953—Princeton University junior John K. Ewing ’54 saves the lives of Richard H. Evans ’55 and John E. Stauffer ’54 in the aftermath of an avalanche on Mount Washington. The following May, Ewing will die tragically in another mountain climbing accident in Connecticut’s Sleeping Giant State Park, at the age of 19.

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John Kennedy Ewing IV’s Class of 1954 Freshman Herald photo (taken ca. 1950).

February 3, 1991—Tiger Inn holds its first coed Bicker.

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This group photo from the 1992 Bric-a-Brac is the first such Tiger Inn photo to include female Princetonians.

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Acquiring Digital Archives in the Field at Princeton

As a digital archivist on Mudd’s Technical Services team, I spend a fair amount of my time looking at screens like the one pictured here.

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21st century mold

I briefly panicked when I came across this screen while processing a restricted University Archives collection last year. The information was the output of the software ClamTK, the default virus scanner for our customized Ubuntu Linux digital archives workstation that I wrote about previously. How, in a collection of nearly 7,000 files that are spread across more than 800 subfolders, was I supposed to identify, assess, and possibly remove 34 individual viruses? The theatrics of the term “threats” was, fortunately, more dramatic than the actual threats themselves: embedded links in several PDF documents that the software flagged as PUA’s, or potentially unwanted applications. I reviewed the specifics of each file, and afterwards packaged the bundle of documents for our secure storage location.

I joked with a few of my colleagues that handling digital archives might require archivists to become epidemiologists on the spot. The fortunate aspect of the above scenario was that it happened in our processing room, which means that I was able to thoroughly research the issue, weigh the considerations, and then make a decision. I could have only wished for such calm and contained circumstances two weeks ago when I went to acquire 50 gigabytes of historical materials from the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 26-February 1

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an Oscar winner dies, the University holds a winter Commencement to send students off to war more quickly, and more.

January 26, 1992—Jose Ferrer ’33 dies at the age of 80. Though best known for his Oscar-winning portrayal of the title character in Cyrano de Bergerac in 1949, he had already made an impression on Princeton. The Class of 1933 named him the “Most Entertaining” and “Wittiest” among them upon graduation. Like his friend James Stewart ’32, Ferrer was an architecture major who got his start in show business through involvement in Triangle Club.

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Jose Ferrer was named “Most Entertaining” and “Wittiest” by the Class of 1933 (photo from 1933 Nassau Herald).

January 27, 1934—An Ice Carnival held in Baker Rink raises $900 for charity, which is donated to the Princeton Nursery School.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 19-25

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Woodrow Wilson refuses to have a ball, Princeton students fight to get into a class about married life, and more.

January 19, 1895—Marshall P. Wilder, the first comedian with a disability, performs at the Second Presbyterian Church in Princeton, with College of New Jersey (Princeton University) students in the audience.

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Flyer advertising Marshall P. Wilder’s performance in Princeton January 19, 1895. Music Performance at Princeton Collection (AC205), Box 2.

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“I Pledge My Honor”

Final exams begin at Princeton University today. Professors, Lecturers, and Assistants in Instruction (Preceptors) will not be present while students are taking them, trusting them to police themselves. In return, the students will sign their exams under this handwritten statement: I pledge my honor that I have not violated the Honor Code during this examination.

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Students taking an exam in Princeton University’s McCosh 50, ca. 1950s. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP163, Item No. 4402.

The Honor System, one of Princeton’s most distinctive traditions, was established and has been maintained almost exclusively by undergraduates. Cheating ran rampant at the College of New Jersey (Princeton University) in the late nineteenth century; students saw it as a way to outwit the faculty, while professors expended a great deal of energy trying to catch cheaters. Booth Tarkington (Class of 1893) described this rivalry as a “continuous sly warfare between the professor and the student.” Crib sheets were common, as was sharing answers during tests. Students who refused to collaborate were ridiculed. Reporting fellow students to the faculty was seen as dishonorable and unthinkable for most, while professors would stalk exam rooms looking for any inconsistencies. Sometimes faculty also hired extra proctors help keep an eye on students.

Student dissatisfaction with this culture of cheating and “sly warfare” peaked in 1893, when some of the most influential juniors and seniors proposed an honor pledge. Honor systems were not uncommon at southern schools, such as the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia, and many Princeton undergraduates had gone to southern preparatory schools with prominent and successful honor systems. Senior Charles Ottley  (Class of 1893) and several juniors drew on their practical experience with the honor system at the Webb School in central Tennessee as they pushed for an honor system at Princeton.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 12-18

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, final exams prove stressful, the Nude Olympics meet their end, and more.

January 12, 1941—A pre-finals blackout distresses residents of five Princeton dormitories. The next morning, the Daily Princetonian will report: “After hesitatingly peering skyward to assure themselves that no Nazi bombers were heaving over the horizon, they swore that even in London they didn’t have to take exams the day following a blackout.”

January 13, 1893—In response to widespread cheating that many fear diminishes the accomplishments of those who do their own work, College of New Jersey (Princeton University) students call for an honor system. The Honor Code will be adopted and first used on an English Literature exam on January 26.

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Philip Ellicott Barringer ’38’s final exam in History 314 (The Renaissance and the Reformation), Spring 1938. Note the Honor Pledge’s now-outdated wording. Course Examinations Collection (AC054), Box 22. (Access to students’ academic records is governed by this policy.)

January 14, 1969—To protest the concept of grades, 27 Princeton philosophy majors go on “strike,” refusing to sign their final exams. Several other students in Philosophy 300 reportedly follow their lead in solidarity. Their effort to rid Princeton of grades ultimately fails, and the students will all identify their exams and accept the grades assigned by their professors several weeks later.

January 15, 1999—The New York Times reports that the Nude Olympics will likely not continue at Princeton after the year’s event resulted in the hospitalization of five students. The tradition, which evolved during the 1970s streaking fad and has been discouraged by the administration for years, consists of the sophomore class running laps in the nude around the Holder Courtyard after each year’s first snowfall. The Times article quotes Peter Dutton ’91: “Can’t undergraduates run naked in a restrained and dignified manner anymore?” (Ultimately, 1999’s Olympics will be the last naked frolic in the snow for Princeton’s undergraduates.)

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 1974 cartoon from the Daily Princetonian. Video of the 1986 Nude Olympics can be found here.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

This Week in Princeton History for January 5-11

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Albert C. Kinsey’s groundbreaking report is sold out everywhere (even the library!), students urge the administration to admit women, and more.

January 5, 1948—The Albert C. Kinsey report, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male,” is published. It will be immediately sold out at every bookstore in town. All of the University Library’s copies will be sent to the University Store and also sold so quickly that nobody notices the mistake until none are left.

January 6, 1919—The Faculty decide to accept the Department of War’s offer to establish a field artillery R.O.T.C. at Princeton. The program will include training with horses as well as weaponry.

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Princeton University R.O.T.C. with a canon outside Palmer Stadium, undated. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP189, Image No. 5100.

January 7, 1914—Dr. John Miller Turpin Finney (Class of 1884), first president of the newly-formed American College of Surgeons, addresses the Medical Club in Dodge Hall.

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This photo of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University) Class of 1884 was donated to the archives by Dr. Finney’s wife. Historical Photograph Collection, Class Photographs Series (AC184), Box LP4.

January 8, 1965–The Daily Princetonian runs a special report on the damage admitting only men to the University is causing to its students and editorializes, “hopefully, we’ll be sending our daughters, as well as our sons, to Princeton.” The report concludes, “Today young men want women—not simply as sex objects, as those who lead the argument into rather fruitless digressions maintain—but as companions, as sharers of common experiences.”

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Princeton University’s (all male) 1965 Cheerleading Squad. Photo from the 1965 Bric-a-Brac.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us

This Week in Princeton History for December 29-January 4

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, graduate alumni form their own organization, George Washington comes to town, and more.

December 29, 1939—William B. Scott (Class of 1877), Blair Professor of Geology, Emeritus, wins the Penrose Medal, the top prize in geosciences, from the Geological Society of America.

December 30, 1949—The Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni (APGA ) is founded.

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Promotional materials sent to graduate alumni following the founding of the Association for Princeton Graduate Alumni, 1950, Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109), Box 10, Folder 1.

January 1, 1951—Princeton University begins participation in the Social Security system.

January 2, 1777—George Washington and the Continental Army march from Trenton to Princeton, where they will liberate Nassau Hall and the rest of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University) campus from British occupation on January 3.

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Princeton has long celebrated its connection to George Washington and the American Revolution. This cover of an event program is found in the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Records (AC200).

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.