This Week in Princeton History for April 3-9

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a trespasser is found cooking eggs, the campus mourns Martin Luther King, Jr., and more.

April 3, 1958—While out of town on a trip with the team, Princeton University baseball trainer Fred “Bobo” Holmes saves a woman from bleeding to death after a stabbing in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

April 5, 1985—A man found cooking eggs in the Graduate Annex is arrested for trespassing. He is said to be a “habitual offender.”

April 6, 1931—During a debate broadcast over the radio, J. R. Mitchell ’32 argues “That the emergence of women from the home is a deplorable feature of modern life.”

April 9, 1968—Due to activism on the part of the Association for Black Collegians, Princeton University suspends normal operations to memorialize assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. While classes are not held, the U-Store is closed, and libraries delay opening until 3:00PM, small group interracial dialogue seminars follow a meeting with an overflow audience in Alexander Hall. An impassioned plea from Alfred D. Price ’69 receives a standing ovation from the more than 1,200 attendees: “White America does not realize what the black community feels they have at stake. … we don’t have any answers. Neither do you. We’ve got to find answers together.”

Marion Sleet ’69 at a vigil for Martin Luther King, Jr. in Princeton, 1968. Alfred D. Price ’69 says this may have been on the same day as the interracial dialogue seminars: “At the end of the day all of us who had been discussion leaders met up on the front steps of Nassau Hall and I remember Doc Fields having us form a circle and joining hands with our hands crossed in front of us and then clasping the hand of each guy next to us. And there were, I don’t know, 40 or so of us present. And I remember Doc [Carl A.] Fields leading a kind of prayer … And so there we were, all of us standing on the front stoop of Nassau Hall with our hands joined and Fields using that as a teaching moment for us. Why didn’t we join hands sooner? I think that was that day and that’s how that day concluded, but I will never forget the experience. Powerful.” Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection (AC126), Box 38.

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

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This Week in Princeton History for April 4-10

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Betty Friedan is on campus, the school chooses an official shade of orange, and more.

April 5, 1895—In a letter to the editor of the Daily Princetonian, the editorial board of the Nassau Lit defends their controversial decision to change the cover of the magazine for the first time in decades. In response to outcry from students and alumni, they will return to the original cover in May.

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This Week in Princeton History for March 9-15

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, undergrads form the Veterans of Future Wars, a civil rights protest turns violent, and more.

March 11, 1936—About 200 Princeton undergraduates form the Veterans of Future Wars, a cynical club that satirically petitions the U.S. government for a “bonus” similar to that of World War I veterans. The organization will achieve tremendous success, with chapters at many other colleges, as well as an auxiliary organization, the Future Gold Star Mothers, at Vassar. During World War II, nearly all members will join the military.

VFW ad from Princetonian_1936-05-11_v61_n076_0001

Ad from the Daily Princetonian.

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ACLU Court Document Summons King’s Last Days

A recent reference inquiry brought to light a document within the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Records that provides a record of one of the events that took place in the days surrounding the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with Dean of the Chapel Ernest Gordon, at Princeton in 1960. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series.

W.J. Michael Cody, an attorney in Memphis, who, along with his firm, represented King and other defendants in a case brought by the City of Memphis, inquired whether we had documents related to these events in the ACLU Records.

The court case at issue concerned the City of Memphis’ desire to prevent a march in support of striking sanitation workers—the city wished to ban the demonstration because an earlier sanitation workers’ march (held on March 28, 1968) had become disorderly and resulted in rioting and the use of aggressive law enforcement measures including mace and tear gas. King wished to lead another, peaceful march for the cause, but the City of Memphis obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent it from occurring (Cody, p. 700).

Cody, a former president of the West Tennessee Chapter of the ACLU, was contacted by ACLU General Counsel Mel Wulf, and asked whether his firm, Burch Porter & Johnson, would represent King in a case to lift the restraining order and allow the march to proceed legally. On the evening of April 3, in the midst of the defense’s preparations for the case, King gave his well-known “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech to the sanitation workers and their families at the Mason Temple (Cody, p. 700).  According to the document below from the ACLU records, the hearing was held on the day of April 4, and the court decided that the march could proceed under a set of conditions that would help to ensure its orderliness.  That evening, King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel.

The three-page court document from the ACLU Records, filed April 5, 1968, indicates that the Counsel for the City changed its position after the tragic event and joined with the defendants in their efforts to allow the march to proceed with the provisions listed.

Opinion and Temporary Injunction (page 1), ACLU Records, Subgroup 2, Box 656, Folder 2

Opinion and Temporary Injunction (page 1), ACLU Records, Subgroup 2, Box 656, Folder 2

Opinion and Temporary Injunction (page 2), ACLU Records, Subgroup 2, Box 656, Folder 2

Opinion and Temporary Injunction (page 2), ACLU Records, Subgroup 2, Box 656, Folder 2

Opinion and Temporary Injunction (page 3), ACLU Records, Subgroup 2, Box 656, Folder 2

Opinion and Temporary Injunction (page 3), ACLU Records, Subgroup 2, Box 656, Folder 2

Cody recounts the complex and compelling events of this period in Memphis in his article “King at the Mountain Top: The Representation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memphis, April 3-4, 1968,” The University of Memphis Law Review, Vol. 41, pages 699-707.

 

Martin Luther King Jr.’s visits to Princeton

Dear Mr. Mudd,
What types of materials do you have concerning Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?

The Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library’s Princeton University Archives and the Public Policy Papers each have a great deal of material regarding Dr. King, his visits to Princeton University, and his civil rights legacy.
MLK_webKing with Assistant Dean of the Chapel Reimers on the steps of Chancellor Green, March 1960. Also pictured: top right: Tom Garrett ’61, top middle: Jerry H. Shattuck ’61, top left: Daniel H. Jackson ‘1961, bottom right: John N. McConnel Jr. ’61. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series, box MP4

First, the Public Policy Papers contain information concerning King’s civil rights and organizing activities in the David Lawrence Papers, John Marshall Harlan Papers, Robert K. Massie Papers, George McGovern Papers, David E. Lilienthal Papers, Law Students Civil Rights Research Council Records, and in the Subject Files, Project Files, and Audiovisual materials series of the American Civil Liberties Union Records.

Secondly, the University Archives have substantial information concerning King’s 1960 and 1962 visits as part of the Student Christian Association’s Biennial Religious Conference, as well as a cancelled 1958 sermon. The University Archives collections also contain materials that document the University’s annual observations of the civil rights leader’s legacy. In addition, Dr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King received an honorary degree in 1970, information about which can also be found at Mudd.

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