This Week in Princeton History for December 2-8

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, campus proctors nab serial burglars, a comedian gives an ominous warning, and more.

December 2, 1942—Charles Bagley III ’44 writes to the Daily Princetonian in response to a November 30 editorial that, among other things, called for African Americans to have equality under the law. “Did [the author] choose to ignore the question of states’ rights is concerned[?] On second thought, has he ever heard of states’ rights?”

December 3, 1920—Campus proctors arrest two men accused of burglarizing dormitories at Princeton for two years by brazenly going into students’ rooms while they were out and filing the students’ suitcases with whatever they wanted, then walking out with the suitcases in broad daylight.

Campus proctor William Coans (“Bill Coons”), ca. 1920. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series (AC067), Box 1.

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Debating Race at Princeton in the 1940s, Part I: Francis L. Broderick ’43

This is the first post in a two-part series examining Princeton University’s debates over admitting African Americans in the 1940s, which began in earnest partly due to the dedication of one undergraduate in the Class of 1943, Francis Lyons “Frank” Broderick.

By April C. Armstrong *14 and Dan Linke

Francis Lyons (“Frank”) Broderick, Class of 1943. Photo from 1943 Nassau Herald.

At first glance, Francis Lyons “Frank” Broderick ’43 looks like a typical mid-century Princetonian, not someone you’d expect to be at the center of a movement to upend his own institution’s admissions policies. His father was president of the East River Savings Bank in New York City, and the family lived on Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side. Broderick attended Phillips Academy and had two older brothers who both attended Princeton as well. What may have set him somewhat apart from many of his classmates is that he listed himself as Catholic and an Independent Democrat in the Nassau Herald at a time when the majority of Princeton undergraduates were Protestant and Republican. He was also the first student to graduate from Princeton’s then-fledgling interdisciplinary Program in American Civilization, and wrote in the preface to his senior thesis that English professor Willard Thorp *26’s edited two-volume set, American Issues, inspired him to look more closely at race in the United States. Continue reading

Whatever Happened to “The Vigil”?

By Iliyah Coles ’22

I have been looking for information about The Vigil, a minority newspaper that the University published in the late twentieth century. As a black student at a predominantly-white institution, I wanted to see what the newspaper would be about and how effectively it incorporated voices not usually heard. After researching and reading several of its later publications, I was offended by many things that I found. Expression within the paper seemed to be limited–confined to what was deemed acceptable during the time period. I was ultimately disappointed with my discoveries, but I still wanted to share them with others so that readers could become more aware of the racial tensions that persist even in the most unlikely of places. 

The Vigil, written for and mostly by minorities, was first published in 1980. The Third World Center (now known as the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality + Cultural Understanding) supported the paper. According to the Daily PrincetonianThe Vigil had been discontinued several times over the span of six years, mostly due to financial issues and infrequent publication. Though I was not able to determine why the newspaper was discontinued the last time (seemingly in 1999), there are some red flags, mostly in the articles written on black people, that might have had something to do with its failure to achieve broader support.  

Cover of The Vigil, February 1995. Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding Records (AC364), Box 1.

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This Week in Princeton History for September 2-8

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Frist Campus Center opens, an alum writes to Princeton about surviving a major earthquake in Japan, and more.

September 2, 1973—An article in today’s Sunday magazine of the New York Times provokes contentious correspondence between Dean of the College Neil L. Rudenstine ’56 and the author, Harvard professor Martin Kilson. Kilson claims that Princeton, like many other institutions, has lowered its standards when increasing its admission of African Americans. Rudenstine insists Kilson’s portrayal of academic performance among African Americans at Princeton as subpar is inaccurate.

September 5, 2000—Frist Campus Center opens.

Frist Campus Center, September 2000. Image from negatives found in Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 197, Folder 14.

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This Week in Princeton History for July 8-14

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Princetonian reappears after an epidemic, Robert Goheen anticipates racial tension on campus, and more.

July 9, 1880—In an issue delayed for weeks due to an epidemic of typhoid, the Princetonian acknowledges that the abrupt breakup of the spring session meant that there had been no opportunity for the community to grieve the loss of the 10 students who died, and offers space in its future columns for testimonials about the lives lost.

July 12, 1950—Air Force Lt. Douglas Haag ’49 is probably the first Princeton alum to die in action in the Korean War, but his remains will not be identified until 2013.

July 13, 1970—The New York Times runs an article on a panel of college presidents discussing their institutions, quoting Princeton University’s Robert Goheen: “Under the general heading of student unrest, we think we’re going to have increasing problems in the current year with our blacks…It’s going to be a long time, I think, before we work out the modes of accommodations for blacks in our universities.”

Robert F. Goheen (center) with student attendees of “The Future of the Negro Undergraduate” conference, March 30, 1967. Office of the President Records (AC193), Box 456, Folder 7.

July 14, 1793—Town and gown celebrate Bastille Day with a ball and supper at the College Inn (later known as the Nassau Inn).

For the previous 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 March 18-24

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Class of 1877 takes a look at the Milky Way, a campus publication urges the institution to examine its own prejudices while continuing to fight bigotry beyond it, and more.

March 18, 1932—Campus proctors apprehend a bootlegger on campus and find 74 quarts of champagne and whiskey in his car hidden among golf bags, suitcases, and books.

March 20, 1877—The Class of 1877 has the opportunity to look at the Milky Way (the “Queen of Heaven”) through a telescope with the help of Prof. Stephen Alexander.

Stephen Alexander, ca. 1880. Historical Photograph Collection, Faculty Photographs Series (AC058), Box FAC03.

March 22, 1999—Over 200 people gather in Princeton University Chapel for an impromptu memorial service a few hours after Matthew Weiner ’02 died suddenly of cardiac arrest during a pickup basketball game.

March 23, 1944—In Princeton’s Roundtable News, John Kemeny ’46 editorializes, “Even one of the most enlightened of groups, the students of Princeton University, is hysterical at the thought of admitting negroes, and it makes them talk about forming lynching parties and copying the Nazi party in many other ways. … It is about time that we realized that a fascist is an enemy not only in Berlin and Rome, but also in Chicago and New York.”

For the previous 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 February 11-17

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, African American women express their views of campus, police are on the lookout for stolen silverware, and more.

February 11, 1994—A group of students responds to an editorial cartoon with pleas for greater thoughtfulness about the use of imagery and language on campus, saying the cartoon’s portrayal of Cornel West *80 played to a variety of offensive stereotypes. Discussions continue throughout the week.

A follow up set of editorial cartoons from the Daily Princetonian.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 14-20

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a member of the Class of 1801 walks 20 miles round trip to attend a memorial for George Washington, a class is lit with electric lamps, and more.

January, 14, 1800—John Johnston, Class of 1801, walks with other Princeton students to Trenton to hear Samuel Smith’s oration on the life of George Washington. Attendance is so large that many, including the students, have no seats and stand for the three-hour ceremony that includes Smith’s address. “To walk ten miles going and ten miles returning, and to stand on our feet nearly three hours, was not a small day’s labor. It will be believed, that when we reached the college we were excessively fatigued and hungry, for we had no opportunity to get anything to eat during the day.”

Samuel Stanhope Smith’s address at the Trenton memorial for George Washington, January 14, 1800. Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 253.

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What Archival Silence Conceals—and Reveals: Recovering Princeton University’s 19th-Century African American Graduate Alumni

Archival silences distort the past, shaping our current and future self-understanding, so preserving Princeton’s history sometimes means attempting to correct the work of our predecessors. My struggle to bring 19th and early 20th-century African American graduate alumni to light illustrates one way white supremacy of that era continues to influence us today. It also supports the argument that archives are not neutral, so researchers and archival staff must pay close attention to the ways archival work reflects the values of those who did the preserving and discarding.

In our Graduate Alumni Records collection, I found files for Irwin William Langston Roundtree, George Shippen Stark, and Leonard Zechariah Johnson, African Americans previously known to have received masters degrees from Princeton. Contents were sparse. Stark’s and Johnson’s consisted primarily of the evidence that they had paid fees and earned course credit. Roundtree’s file had no information about the classes he took, but included an obituary that indicated he was a longtime resident of Trenton.

(Click to enlarge.) Academic record of Leonard Zachariah Johnson, graduate class of 1904. Graduate Alumni Records (AC105).

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“A Tribute to Brian Taylor ’84”

By Justin Feil

In honor of the first men’s basketball home game tonight, we pay homage to one of the Tiger court’s greatest. It was big news when Brian Taylor ‘84 (originally Class of 1973) chose to play basketball for Princeton University. It was bigger news when he became the first Princeton player, and one of the first college players ever, to leave early for the pros three years later.

Criticized heavily for the move, the 6-foot-3 guard went on to play 10 years in the American Basketball Association and National Basketball Association before returning to Princeton to finish his degree. He then started working in business before moving into education as a teacher and administrator. Continue reading