Einstein was a physics genius. But his passion might have been civil rights.

These days, the name Albert Einstein is basically a synonym for “genius.”

Einstein’s theory of relativity is one of the cornerstones of modern physics and his predictions continue to be confirmed today, even over a hundred years later. That’s not to mention his famous E=mc2 equation and the nuclear weapons it eventually helped spawn (which Einstein came to deeply regret).

He could even be pretty wise at times. A note scrawled with a piece of advice — "A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness." — recently sold for $1.56 million.


Two notes from Albert Einstein that were given to a bellboy in lieu of a tip. Photo by Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images.

But there’s a different reason Einstein was amazing that many people might not realize: He was also a fervent civil rights activist.

Though his life ultimately came to be full of fame and fortune, Einstein wasn’t a stranger to prejudice.

A portrait of Einstein at a show in London. The artist who made this, Max Liebermann, would be attacked as “degenerate” by the Nazis. Photo by Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images.

Einstein was Jewish, living in Germany as Hitler rose to power. Einstein despaired over the Nazi’s anti-Semitism and became an outspoken critic of the Nazi party, which only drew more attacks against him. Major newspapers published attack pieces against him. His house was raided while he was away. He even appeared on a pamphlet list of the enemies of Nazi Germany. The caption below his picture read, “Not Yet Hanged.”

The harassment would ultimately prove to be too much. In 1933, Einstein abandoned his home and job at the Prussian Academy and sailed to the United States, stating: “I shall live in a land where political freedom, tolerance, and equality of all citizens reign.”

Einstein in 1938 at home at Princeton University. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

Though the United States proved to be a haven for Einstein for the rest of his life, he must have been disappointed to see his newly adopted country fail to live up to the promise of equality.

At the time, the United States was still deeply segregated and Jim Crow laws severely restricted the rights of black Americans. Even Princeton, the college that’d become Einstein’s workplace, wouldn’t admit black students. Einstein could see the parallels, and, just as he refused to be quiet in Germany, so too in the United States.

Over the next decades, Einstein would become a staunch defender and ally of both the civil rights movement and the men and women who fueled it.

When opera star Marian Anderson was denied a hotel room because of her skin color, Einstein opened his house to her. He worked with actor and singer Paul Robeson on the American Crusade Against Lynching and invited him to perform at Princeton when the singer was blacklisted. He publicly encouraged the NAACP and W.E B. Du Bois for years and appeared as a character witness when the federal government tried to indict the man.

In 1946, he published an essay for white readers about racial bias in Pageant magazine, writing:

"Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man’s quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery. The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition. …
I do not believe there is a way in which this deeply entrenched evil can be quickly healed. But until this goal is reached there is no greater satisfaction for a just and well-meaning person than the knowledge that he has devoted his best energies to the service of the good cause."

That same year, he gave a speech at Lincoln University calling racism was "a disease of white people." He also added, "I do not intend to be quiet about it."

Einstein was clearly one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. But perhaps what made him a truly special human being wasn’t just that he was smart, or that he was funny, or that he left behind a lot of great anecdotes (and notes for bellboys).

Perhaps it was that he used that magnificent brain of his to not just undersand the world, but to try to make it more just, fair, and peaceful place.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.