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.

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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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Lost and Found: Segregation and the South

By Dan Linke and Brenda Tindal

Title screen

Martin Luther King and ___ on bus.

Martin Luther King riding a Montgomery bus after the boycott.

A recently donated film long thought lost has been digitized and is now viewable online.  “Segregation and the South,” a film produced in 1957 by the Fund for the Republic, reported on race issues in the South since the 1954 Supreme Court decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case.  It examined the slow progress of integration at elementary and secondary schools and colleges, as well as the white backlash to the decision.  It also documented the Montgomery bus boycott.  Much of the footage came from news organizations like CBS and NBC that was re-packaged, but some original material was filmed in Clarksdale, Mississippi, by writer and director James Peck.  Broadcast on June 16, 1957, a Sunday, from 5-6 p.m., it aired on over 30 ABC affiliates, 12 in the South, but none in the Deep South.

Narrated by prominent voice actor Paul Frees, pioneer television journalist George Martin Jr. served as executive producer, and it was Martin’s son who donated his father’s copy of the 16mm film to the Mudd Manuscript Library.

Many notable civil rights figures of the time are featured (though some are not identified) including  Ralph Abernathy (31:56: “No we’re not tired”), UN diplomat Ralph Bunche (16:35: “No one has ever been known to enjoy rights posthumously”), NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall (7:10 and 16:56), Rosa Parks (31:17 where she tells of her refusal to give up her seat on a bus that sparked the boycott), and NAACP executive secretary Roy Wilkins (7:51 and 10:03).   In addition, the prominent union leader within the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, A. Phillip Randolph, is featured (10:07).

Martin Luther King is featured prominently several times (7:42: “There is a brand new Negro in the South, with a new sense of dignity and destiny;” 34:02; 36:56; 38:30; 38:46; and at 39:07 responding to the violent backlash that followed the end of segregated buses in Montgomery:  “Yes, it might even mean physical death , but if physical death is the price that some must pay to free our children from a permanent  life of psychological death, then nothing could be more honorable.”)

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