Fifteen years ago, Halle Berry made history as the first African American woman ever to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. A year and a half before her Oscar win, Halle Berry was the keynote speaker for a two-day conference at Princeton, “Imitating Life: Women, Race, and Film, 1932-2000.” We’ve recently digitized the video of her address.
In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a Supreme Court justice visit ignites protest, the women’s squash team completes eight undefeated seasons, and more.
February 21, 1920—Princeton University holds a special graduation ceremony for students who missed their own but have now returned from war.
This Sunday marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the mass expulsion of Japanese Americans from the west coast of the United States. Specifically, the order allowed the Secretary of War to designate certain regions as “military areas” from which anyone could be expelled at the discretion of the Secretary or his commanders. The order, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt about ten weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, was defended by the federal government as a wartime protection measure.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Arthur Garfield Hays echoed the opinion of others in the organization when he initially wrote to a peer about his tendency to approve the actions of the government during crises; however, he soon after came to the conclusion that “we are safer in the long run if the government recognizes constitutional limitations, even in time of war.” Despite similar debates between board members, the ACLU quickly responded to the executive order by issuing several statements to Roosevelt and to John L. DeWitt, the commanding general of the Western Defense Command. The ACLU’s statements condemned Executive Order 9066 as discriminatory, pointing not only to the blatant prejudice against Japanese Americans, but also to the legal inequality that the order bolstered. In particular, the ACLU referred to the fact that the House Select Committee Investigating National Defense Migration (also known as the Tolan Committee), which conducted hearings in February and March 1942, recommended that German and Italian “alien residents” be afforded the chance to attest their loyalty to the United States before civilian boards– a recommendation that the committee did not extend to Japanese Americans.
In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a professor starts a controversial contraceptive hotline, the campus agrees on a method for resisting the British crown, and more.
February 13, 1967—Vassar’s debate team argues the merits of coeducation in Whig Hall. Vassar’s team, arguing that Princeton should educate women, wins by a vote of 36-11. Both single-gender schools will ultimately become fully coeducational in the same year (1969).
As we have previously pointed out, Princeton’s first African American undergraduates were not purposefully admitted: they were instead brought as part of a Navy training program during World War II. In 1945, Trustee Laurence G. Payson wrote to fellow member of the Class of 1916 John McFerran Barr to explain the presence of black students in response to apparent objections. “When the personnel [for the Navy unit] arrived its members included, unbeknownst to us in advance, four negroes.” Meanwhile, a law requiring tax-exempt institutions not to discriminate on the basis of race had recently passed in New Jersey. “If Princeton were to stand against the negroes who were admitted under the Navy War-time ROTC the Trustees would be in a very difficult spot.” He explained that future African American applications for admission would be evaluated by administrators at Nassau Hall (i.e., the Office of the President) rather than by the Office of Admission, then headed by Dean Radcliffe Heermance. (Heermance had revoked one black student’s offer of admission in the 1930s when he showed up to register for classes and his race became apparent.) In spite of Princeton’s wariness of challenge to its traditions, one young local African American resident found the presence of black students at the prestigious university inspirational in its seeming promise of new possibilities.
In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the first woman ever to enroll defends her dissertation, the town decides not to rely exclusively on students to fight fires, and more.
February 6, 1975—The Borough of Princeton installs a traffic light at the corner of Washington Road and Prospect Avenue, in front of 1879 Hall.
In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an investigation of a masked swordsman begins, a graduate carries the Olympic torch, and more.
January 30, 1805—The faculty of the College of New Jersey meet “to make inquiry concerning a mask & sword with which a person has been seen several times in the entries of the College.”
February 1, 1884—The Princetonian quotes Andrew Wilkins Wilson, Jr. of the Class of 1883 on the school’s decision to establish a rowing crew: “In my opinion (as well as in that of almost our entire class) it is a pure waste of time, money and muscle for Princeton to compete with other colleges on the water.”
February 2, 1933—Cold and snow stop the Nassau Hall bell tower clock with the hands frozen at 10:44AM, but exams proceed on schedule because the bells are rung manually.
Mudd Library’s University Administrative Fellow for the fall 2016-2017 semester curated an online HistoryPin exhibit to document the history of minority sexualities at Princeton University. In this post, she provides broader context for the materials she chose to highlight.
By Ariana Natalie Myers GS
For much of its history, Princeton University students who experienced attraction toward their own gender kept it secret. Some alumni were later outed as homosexuals, such as Alan Turing ’38 (GS), famed World War II cryptographer who was the victim of brutal punishment by the British government once his sexuality was uncovered. Kirk LeMoyne “Lem” Billings ’39, onetime roommate of President John F. Kennedy at Princeton and close associate of the Kennedy family, was outed by friends after his death in 1981.
Princeton University opened its doors to female undergraduates in 1969, and the first 130 women moved in for the fall semester. The decision-making process and its aftermath was fraught with controversy, with concerns ranging from the presumed “unproductivity” of female alumni to the costs of campus expansion to the anticipated loss of Princeton’s “unique charisma” and “manly dedication.” Many of those opposed to coeducation coalesced into the organization Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP). Proponents of coeducation argued that the proximity of women would decrease homosexuality. This latter position was tacitly supported by Dr. Louis E. Reik ‘33, University Director of Mental Health, and his associate Dr. Willard Dalrymple, Director of University Health Services, in an interview with the Daily Princetonian in 1966 in which Reik stated that a “tendency which was latent before might well be strengthened here” (on a single-gender campus). In a subsequent interview with Dr. Reik in 1969, he contradicted his prior statements and argued that coeducation would not have a notable effect on homosexuality, since he considered that it developed before the age students typically attended college.
In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a drawing is held for room assignments in a new dorm, the basketball team plays its first game ever, and more.
January 23, 1767—Jonathan Baldwin secures an affidavit from Job Stockton to defend himself against accusations that he has defrauded the College of New Jersey of about 30 pounds of mutton. “Tho’ I have been employed ten years in buying and providing for the college, this is the first instance, in which I have been charged with this surprising facility, in being imposed upon in my bargains,” Baldwin writes.
January 24, 1898—Students participate in a drawing to secure lodging in the newly-built Blair Hall. Rents range from $200-$300 per year including meals.
Q. Dear Mr. Mudd,
Is it true that the University of Texas school song, “The Eyes of Texas,” has a Princeton University connection? Where did the song come from, and why don’t Princeton students sing it anymore?
A. “The Eyes of Texas” is set to a tune best known today as “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” Both use a melody first published as “Levee Song” in the College of New Jersey (Princeton)’s songbook, Carmina Princetonia, in 1894. With the new lyrics as “The Eyes of Texas,” the song was first published in The University of Texas Community Songbook in 1918.