This Week in Princeton History for February 25-March 3

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Graduate College remains in control of the U.S. Navy following the end of World War I, the local pastors association prays for their colleagues involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and more.

February 27, 1981—Three students who won election to Undergraduate Student Government as members of the joke group “Antarctica Liberation Front” on a platform of “jihad” against the Hun School of Princeton resign after only one USG meeting.

Princeton University’s Antarctica Liberation Front, ca. 1981. Image from the Daily Princetonian.

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Caroline Le Count’s Visit to Princeton

By April C. Armstrong *14 and Iliyah Coles ’22

Caroline Le Count, though not so well known today, was a prominent African American activist and educator in Philadelphia in the 19th century. The Philadelphia Citizen recently referred to her as “Philly’s Rosa Parks” because she worked to dismantle streetcar segregation in the city, a goal accomplished in 1867 with a new Pennsylvania law.

Flyer advertising Caroline Le Count’s February 5, 1877 appearance at Princeton’s Witherspoon St. Presbyterian Church.  Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 337, Folder 4. (Click to enlarge.)

After the Civil War, many African Americans, especially women, began refusing to comply with the segregation of public transit in Philadelphia, knowing they’d often be handled roughly when conductors ejected them. Theirs was a movement of civil disobedience that pushed for expanded civil rights for African Americans and built on the momentum of the Union’s victory over the Confederacy. When a conductor did not comply with the new law three days after its passage and would not allow Le Count to ride, yelling a racial slur as he drove past without stopping, she reported it to a police officer. After Le Count showed the officer a copy of the law, he then arrested the conductor, who had to pay a $100 fine. The law mandated not only that African Americans must be permitted to ride streetcars, but that any distinction made on the basis of race on streetcars—in seating or service—was prohibited.

After becoming the first black woman to pass the city’s teacher’s examination, Le Count began teaching at Philadelphia’s Ohio Street School in 1865. Later, sources say she became the second African American female to become principal of a public school, stepping in to serve in that post at Ohio Street School by 1868. She worked continuously to advocate for African American students, teachers, and principals. One newspaper editor said she was “a match for all the officers and members of the Board of Education combined.” After her fiancé, fellow activist Octavius V. Catto who had helped to draft the streetcar bill, was murdered on election day on October 10, 1871, the school was renamed in his honor. Le Count never married.

Le Count was a noted author and speaker. Some sources mention her entertaining her audiences with a perfect imitation of an Irish accent. Often, she spoke or recited poetry at fundraisers for African American churches. The above notice, found in our Historical Subject Files (AC109), shows that she was raising money for the African American community in Princeton as well. Though we don’t know whether any students at Princeton would have attended her 1877 performance, it is plausible that some of Princeton’s African American staff would have. Unfortunately, we have found no further information about Le Count’s visit to Princeton.

This Week in Princeton History for April 9-15

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a group of undergraduate activists derail a segregationist group on campus, the Nassau Literary Review protests police abuse of firearms, and more.

April 9, 1964—Activists in favor of integration carry out a coup in the leadership of the Committee for Racial Reconciliation, a pro-segregation student organization, electing African American Robert F. Engs ’65 as its vice president, making headlines and sparking immediate controversy throughout the United States.

Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

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This Week in Princeton History for October 10-16

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Princetonian says they can’t drink the water, the first “Gay Jeans Day” causes controversy, and more.

October 10, 1878—The Princetonian warns the administration in an editorial that the shortage of potable water on campus will likely drive students to drink things that are “stronger than water.”

October 11, 1989—Princeton’s first “Gay Jeans Day,” which encourages students to wear jeans to show support for gay rights, provokes controversy on campus.

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Flyer advertising Gay Jeans Day, 1989. Lesbian Gay Bisexual Alliance Records (AC037), Box 1, Folder 5.

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This Week in Princeton History for August 8-14

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a sophomore heads to Mississippi for Freedom Summer, a freshman meets Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office, and more.

August 9, 1850—After a journey of nearly three weeks from Maybank, Georgia, Charles C. Jones, Jr. (Class of 1852) and his brother, Joseph Jones (Class of 1853) arrive in Princeton. Charles writes to let their parents know they have had a safe journey: “There is no institution (West Point scarcely excepted) where there is so complete and full a course of mathematics, and one upon which so great importance is imposed upon this branch, as is here the case. It appears to be their pride to maintain the highest stand in this particular, and consequently all who apply must meet their fullest requirements to the letter.”

August 10, 1964—Philip Hocker ’67 arrives in Jackson, Mississippi volunteering as a civil rights activist. A week later, a white resident will club him with an axe handle, the first in a series of harrowing experiences he will have living and working among African Americans in Mississippi during Freedom Summer.

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Philip Mackay Hocker, 1967 Nassau Herald.

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This Week in Princeton History for October 26-November 1

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the campus suspends mail delivery due to fears of contamination, Coretta Scott King speaks to an audience of more than 500, and more.

October 26, 1963—An undetermined number of Princeton undergraduates join an estimated 4,000 participants in a civil rights “March on Trenton for Jobs and Freedom.” It is the first statewide civil rights demonstration in the United States, having been modeled on the March on Washington the previous August 28.

October 29, 1951—Princeton junior James G. Hiering ’53’s hiccups cause his roommate to call the infirmary in desperation in the middle of the night. The infirmary sends two uniformed campus proctors to escort Hiering to them for treatment. Hiering, not knowing anything about his roommate’s call, is so surprised to see the officers that his hiccups are instantly cured.

October 31, 2001—The New York Times reports that Princeton University has suspended campus mail delivery in the wake of the discovery that a nearby mailbox in Palmer Square has tested positive for anthrax spores. With the campus pharmacy running low on Cipro, the antibiotic used to treat anthrax, the nationwide concerns about contaminated mail are verging on panic on campus. The anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001 (“Amerithrax”) will ultimately kill five people and infect 17 others in a wide geographic area.

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Editorial cartoon depicting “love in the age of anthrax” from the October 24, 2001 issue of the Daily Princetonian.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 15-21

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 receives an honorary degree, a senior is arrested during civil rights activism, and more.

June 15, 1978—Elizabeth “Lisa” Najeeb Halaby ’73 marries King Hussein and becomes Queen of Jordan, taking the name Noor Al-Hussein.

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Elizabeth Halaby, future Queen Noor of Jordan, at a Princeton football game in 1969. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 223.

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