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The three articles that follow particularize Einstein in quite different ways--and then use that specificity to paint on a broader canvas. Einstein's politics have all too often been smoothed over, rendered into the odd predilections of a do-good naif. Yet everything we know and are learning one thinks here of Thomas Levenson's Einstein in Berlin indicates that he was not a political sap in his youth and did not become one in his maturity.


From Berlin , Einstein had signed a public letter against many of his German nationalist colleagues in the middle of World War I. When a large and rather unpleasant crowd cheered at an anti-Einstein rally a few years later, he was anything but cowed: he bought a ticket and showed up. That political thick skin did not peel away at the debarkation port when he arrived in the United States in 1932. Enter Fred Jerome.
 

 

For years, Jerome fought--in the end successfully--to extricate Einstein's vast FBI files from the clutches of bureaucracy. From these texts even with all their errors, blackened portions, and missing pages--it becomes quite apparent that J. Edger Hoover did not consider Einstein a harmless academic eccentric. The head G-man took the most prestigious theorist to be a threat and had plans for his incarceration. Hoover knew what we, a half century later, have too often forgotten: that Einstein in the 1940s and 1950s was choosing his political causes and organizations with care and forethought--and then backing them significantly. Jerome's essay for this issue shows us an important and little-known Einstein, an Einstein who would not buckle under the post-World War II reaction against black civil rights activism. Einstein lectured on black campuses, defended W. E. B. Du Bois, and--at a time when sympathizers were being harassed and worse--invited Paul Robeson to his Mercer Street home.

 

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