Power to the People: Princeton’s Black Activism Movement

ABC was a place where we could go and it was us. We did have a kindred spirit. I mean because it was 98 black students, all of us knew each other. And even guys that you didn’t hang out with, at some point in time you might be in their dorm room.
Ralph Austin ’73

In 2015,  Brandon A. Holt ’15 conducted interviews with black activists from Association of Black Collegians (ABC) and other organizations at Princeton. The interviews, which include alumni from the classes of 1969-1981, address student participation in demonstrations, hate crimes on campus, and black solidarity. The transcripts of the Brandon D. Holt Collection of Oral History Interviews on Black Student Activism at Princeton are available freely online and provide an insider’s look into black student life.

Princeton’s black students experienced the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement as a reality of daily life, not just as stories they saw on the news. From low numbers of African American students to discrimination on campus, the black college experience at Princeton University had its share of adversity. During these tumultuous years, black Princetonians united across national, class, and gender lines to fight for inclusion and civil rights on campus as well as worldwide.

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Photo from 1970 Bric-a-Brac.

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75th Anniversary Exhibition Celebrates Princeton’s Beloved WPRB Station

Princeton University’s radio station, WPRB, has for the most part been a frenetic hodgepodge where Beethoven plays alongside The Ramones and sports broadcasts back to back with national news. However, the radio station has also been the space where new bands get airplay, campus history is made, and revolutionary ideas are expressed without restraint. For 75 years, WPRB has facilitated creative and intellectual pursuits by serving as the delightful petri dish for the students that spin its turntables.

In celebration of its 75th anniversary, the exhibition “WPRB: A Haven for the Creative Impulse” showcases the impact of the college radio station on the Princeton campus and the entire nation.

students in WPRU studio

Photo from 1947 Bric-a-Brac.

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Proudly We Can Be Jews: The Jewish Experience at Princeton

“I never found Princeton a terribly comfortable place in terms of my being a Jew…”
–Morton Denn ‘61

In 1993, the Center for Jewish Life (CJL) opened at 70 Washington Ave. The mission of the CJL was to provide a place for all Jews (orthodox, conservative, reform or secular) to eat, worship, and socialize. Although the Center primarily served Jewish needs, it also allowed Jewish students to dine with their non-Jewish friends. The struggle to gain campus recognition was a long endeavor that lasted more than a century. Before the CJL opened, Jewish students gathered at Murray-Dodge, in off-campus housing, or in their dorm rooms, keeping Judaism and Jewishness alive.

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First page of a letter from Marcus Lester Aaron ’20 to Rabbi Louis I. Egelson, December 15, 1919. Marcus Lester Aaron Correspondence (AC420), Box 2, Folder 3.

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We Are the Champions: The History of Princeton University’s Women’s Lacrosse Team

After the admission of women in 1969, many aspects of student life at Princeton were transformed, including sports activities. The first changes happened in the area of physical education. After response to a questionnaire given to female students revealed high demand for women’s physical education, the Department of Athletics designated a women’s locker room in Dillon Gym complete with hair dryers. Women’s participation in physical education courses, however, was voluntary and limited to swimming and tennis. The changes to physical education had mixed reviews, but most male students responded favorably. One student reportedly stated that it was pleasant not to see hairy legs all the time.

In the fall of 1970, the university appointed Meredith Lee Dean as director for women’s physical education. Dean expanded the Department of Athletics offerings to include field hockey, dancing, and sailing. These physical education courses were co-ed, and female students often showed as much promise as their male classmates. The Daily Princetonian mentions one incident where the students selected a female student as the star quarterback of a co-ed touch football team.

Female quarterback

Drawing by Jim Lecky, Daily Princetonian, September 14, 1970

Furthermore, women also informally participated in other sports activities. Janice F. Hill ’73, for example, had convinced the new freshman crew coach, John A. Rathschmidt to let her be a barge coxswain during the freshman crew practices.

One of the most dramatic changes to women’s participation in sports occurred during the fall of 1970: the University broke tradition and allowed women to battle each other in events at the annual Cane Spree. Centered around an odd cane wrestling match, the Cane Spree had long been a show of brawn for freshmen and sophomore men. This changed in 1970 when the University allowed freshman and sophomore women to compete in the same athletic matches as men.

Co-ed Cane Spree, 1970

Co-ed Cane Spree, Daily Princetonian, September 21, 1970

Another significant change was the formalization of women’s sports teams. In the fall of 1971, the University created a women’s varsity intercollegiate sports program that allowed intramural teams to compete formally with other schools. The 1971 varsity teams included field hockey, which had already been played extensively in other colleges, as well as tennis, squash, and crew. Princetonian women quickly demonstrated that they were willing and able to compete; several newspapers, including a feature in the New York Times, discussed the achievements of the women’s crew and tennis teams.

Louise Meledin '74

Louise Meledin ’74 with Coach Penny Hinckley, Undergraduate Alumni Records (AC199), Box 556

Although the women’s lacrosse team had been playing since 1971, the university did not incorporate the team into the varsity league until the 1972-1973 season. The women’s field hockey and women’s lacrosse team shared many things: their coach Penny Hinckley, practice fields, and even some teammates. The team played its first game on April 26, 1973 against Westchester and suffered a 21-2 defeat. Among the early stars of the team was Emily Goodfellow ’76, who would win 12 letters for a variety of sports, and Louise Meledin’ 74, also a multiple letter winner and field hockey player.

The women’s lacrosse team finally acquired a coach of their own in 1978, when Hinckley accepted a position at Haverford College.  The new coach, Betty Logan, taught a more offensive approach and led the team to their best records, including beating long-time opponent Penn State. She also significantly increased the performance of the team by hiring Sandy Hoody, a 1986 World cup goalie and member of the US national team, as an assistant coach.

1979 Team Photo, Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 161

1979 Team Photo, Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 161

The team’s major winning streaks occurred in the mid-90s under the direction of Coach Chris Sailer, a Harvard graduate, and a rookie coach. Sailer, who has been with the team nearly 30 years, was inducted into the US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame in 2008 and has received many Coach of the Year awards. In 1993, the team won its first Ivy League championship and became the first Princeton women’s team to reach an NCAA final.

The following year the Tigers finished the job by beating Maryland 10-7 and becoming the first Princeton women’s team to win an NCAA Championship. The team retained its place as the Ivy League Champions until 1997, then regained the Ivy title in 2001 and kept it until 2005. The impressive wins of the team include 10 semi-finals and three championship games.

The Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library has recently processed the Women’s Lacrosse Records acquired from the Department of Athletics. The collection covers games and practices from 1975-2010 and includes a variety of records including clippings, statistics, and video recordings. Other items in the collection are handwritten notes from the team’s coaches, game programs and reports and issues of various sports and lacrosse publications.

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Our Dear Old Barracks: Life in the Butler Tract

When one thinks of Princeton, the phrases “cattle-car style barracks” and “semi-slums” are rarely the first that come to mind. But these are the words people have used to describe the Butler Apartments, which have provided housing for generations of graduate students for nearly 70 years. The apartment complex, located off Harrison Street, was originally built as temporary units to alleviate the housing shortage as a result of an influx of returning World War II veterans.

The spring semester of 1946 witnessed an unprecedented housing shortage; the university had admitted nearly 500 veterans from over 2000 applications received from veterans alone, resulting in the need of housing for hundreds of students. Other educational institutions like Yale were facing the same problem, and had decided to set up Quonset huts to house the influx of returning veterans, many of whom were married and starting families.

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A couple moving into the Butler tract, 1946. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP166, Image No. 4082.

Towards the spring of 1946, the University, along with the Federal Housing Authority, coordinated the construction of 250 units on the Butler tract off Harrison Street to house married veterans. The project called for the revision of the township’s zoning ordinance to build a temporary complex that was to be demolished within a two- to five-year time frame. The housing authority paid for the construction of the structures and interior furnishings while the university took care of its infrastructure, including sewer and electrical connections as well as the building of roads and sidewalks. Prior to the construction of these units, the university had placed students and their spouses anywhere they could; transforming the ROTC Barracks, Brown Hall, Libbey Mansion and other university owned houses into housing for married students.

With two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room, the sheet-rock barrack-style housing complex at Harrison Street was a spacious alternative to the shared facilities available in dormitory housing. An article in the Princeton Alumni Weekly called the complex “the most attractive project of its type at any college.” The rent on the units started at $40 per month, with gas, heat, and electricity included. Additionally, students could rent furniture for $6 a month and towels and bedding for $1.75 a month. Although the complex contained a good number of units, the demand was still greater than the space available; therefore, the university was forced to establish a ranking system to decide who was able to apply. Only men who served in the official U.S military branches and their spouses would be eligible to apply. This provision excluded those who served in the American Merchant Marines and in the American Field Service. Married couples who had been housed in Brown Hall would be given priority, followed by any junior faculty and tenants of upper Pyne Hall.

The first 31 units opened in November of 1946, with the remainder opening by the spring of the following year. In 1948, a new law passed transferring the ownership and authority to the University; this enabled Princeton to continue to house students in the complex. Although the space was adequate, affordable, and a far cry from living in a cramped dormitory space, the complex had several problems. In more than three dozen interviews conducted with previous Butler residents from the 1940s to spring of 2014, there are references to Butler’s paper-thin walls, drafty spaces, uneven floors and antiquated kerosene heaters. The interviews, which are part of the broader Princetoniana Committee Oral History Project, also capture the other side of Butler, which includes the feeling of community within the complex, as well as providing a place for those who could not otherwise afford to live in Princeton.

Some of the interviewees, who have lived in places like New York City, stated that they found the space at Butler to be adequate and that they were grateful to find such an affordable place to live.  David Baldwin *65, said, “We could lie in bed at night and carry on a conversation. Privacy was not that great but there was a lot of camaraderie and companionship.” Joyce Axelrod, wife of Michael Axelrod *66 , said that life at Butler  “was a joy” and that she “never, never felt unhappy.” Other interviews tell of the intellectual and international community that formed around Butler and the friendships and the informal networks that formed to organize everything from babysitters to study groups.

Butler, after surviving several threats of demolition, will be replaced by the Lakeside Apartments off Faculty Road that will open this month. Many people, like Christine Blumauer, who organized a reunions tour of Butler in 2014, feel a sense of nostalgia for the Butler space. Among the things that she enjoyed were “the quietness [and], the kids playing around.” The Butler oral history project was undertaken by the Princetoniana Committee as a way to preserve the stories of those that had lived at Butler. The interviews are accessible through the Princeton University Finding Aids website and include interviews with alumni and their spouses.

Below, we present a gallery of images depicting Butler through the years, inside and out.

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Accessing Early University History through Publications

 

Written by  Rossy Mendez

It can often be a daunting task to find University-related publications from the nineteenth century. Fortunately, a number are available in Princeton’s collections and online. You can search for these publications directly through the main library catalog or by using the finding aids site to search across the university’s special collections. You can limit your results by entering keywords such as “The College of New Jersey” and using date ranges.

Student Publications
The Princeton University Publications Collection (which dates from 1748-2012) contains a variety of publications written by students, from the informal social newsletter the Nassau Rake to the well-established Nassau Literary Magazine. The Princeton Tiger humor magazine, which started in the 1880s, is a significant part of the collection as some of its writers went on to literary careers. Lastly, this collection also contains articles and publications related to the university such as The Influence of Princeton on Higher Education in the South.

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The Tattler, Vol. 1, No. 16, February 26, 1840, Princeton University Publications Collection (AC364), Box 52.

Athletics
The university has a rich athletic tradition and the documentation of this history can be found in several collections at Mudd. The Athletic Programs Collection contains a number of programs from Princeton’s early athletic history including the famous Princeton-Yale football games near the turn of the century. The C. Bernard Shea Collection on Princeton University Athletics contains clippings and statistics of sports events starting in 1869. In addition to this collection, the Bric-a-Brac yearbooks available in Mudd’s reading room also provide insight into sports events.

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Princeton vs. Cornell football souvenir program, October 31, 1896, Athletic Programs Collection (AC042), Box 1, Folder 4.

Visual and Performing Arts
The arts have always played a major role in Princeton’s history. The Music Performance at Princeton Collection (1875-2007) includes programs and advertisements from musical clubs within the university as well as visiting performers. In addition, the General Princeton Theater Collection and the Triangle Club Records have a number of programs and playbills from early performances at the university, while the University Broadsheets Collection has advertisements of important events on campus.

Student Speeches
Clippings and programs of the student orations related to Princeton’s commencement ceremonies can be found in the University Commencement Records and some in the College of New Jersey Pamphlets book, which has a selection of materials from the 1800s. These records provide information about the university’s traditions and practices and are a good way to learn more about the university involvement of a particular individual.

University Registries and Catalogs
A number of registries, yearbooks and catalog publications are available in our reference room. The Nassau Herald yearbook, which was first issued in 1864, contains biographical and academic information including names, field of study and place of residence. In addition to directory information it also provides information about the graduating class (photographs are also included after 1915). The Bric a Brac, an informal yearbook publication produced by the Junior class, documents the social aspects of the university including activities of various clubs and sports teams. Class reunion books include an up to date class directory, eulogies, quotes and other pieces of writing that allow insight into the post-graduation activities of alumni.

University catalogs dating from the early 1800s contain information about statistics, fees, coursework and other policies. Some of these catalogs can be accessed in our reading and reference rooms but some can also be found online (see below). There are a number of specialized catalogs like that of the Whig Society that record club activities and alumni.

Digital Resources
In addition to the abundance of information available at Mudd, there are several of online resources that are worth mentioning. If you are a student or faculty member at Princeton you have access to digital versions of some of these publications through the databases available through the main library catalog. The Nassau Monthly, for example can be accessed through ProQuest and EBSCO databases. In addition to these, ProQuest Historical NewspapersGale News Vault and the Newspaper Archive contain a number of other 19th century publications. If you cannot access Princeton’s digital resources, there are a number of other online resources. The entire archive of the student newspaper The Daily Princetonian, is freely available online and covers events, student issues and local news. The archive contains newspaper clippings that date to as early as 1875. Users can conduct keyword searches as well as limit results using various parameters.

Google Books contains a number of publications that have been digitized by Princeton and other universities. Some examples include catalogs such as the Princeton College Bulletin from 1895 and class reunion books such as the Decennial record of the class of 1874. You can also conduct general searches online to determine if the material you need has been digitized. Here are some examples of available items: an essay written for the student publication, The Tattler; an 1897 essay in Scribner’s magazine written about undergraduate life at Princeton; and a speech given by Charles Fenton Mercer at the University Chapel in 1826.

The Internet Archive has also made available several early images of Princeton’s history through the photo sharing site, Flickr. These images derive from publications and the link to the entire publication is available at the Open Library.

Whether it is using our collections at the Mudd Library or conducting research online, finding information from the 19th century need not be a difficult task. You can visit our website to find more helpful tips on using our collections or contact us via email.