It’s not surprising to read that a large number of Tigers fought and died for the Confederacy (features, March 23). After all, it was their home. But it was shocking to read the pro-slavery rationalizations from otherwise apparently erudite and intelligent young “gentlemen.”
Of course, Princeton is not the only institution confronting its past. Both Harvard Law School and Brown University were heavily endowed with proceeds from the slave trade.
While we’re coming clean, I would be grateful if a Princeton historian or archivist could confirm two related “urban legends” I’ve heard. The first is that Paul Robeson successfully applied to Princeton, but was turned away when he attempted to register. As a result, he had a distinguished college athletic and scholastic career at Rutgers. The second story is that Princeton began to accept African-Americans in the wake of World War II only when acceptance of GI Bill of Rights scholarship money forced the issue.
I am proud of the many ways Princeton has evolved since my day. Understanding just how far we have come should make us even prouder.
Editor’s note: University archivist Dan Linke said there are no records from the time period to prove or disprove the Robeson tale, but that the “urban legend” is similar to what the late Bruce M. Wright has written happened to him. Wright was admitted to Princeton in 1935 but, when he showed up and administrators saw that he was black, was told to go home. He would go on to become a New York State Supreme Court judge, and later an honorary member of the Class of 2001. Regarding the latter question, Linke said that “blacks were admitted to Princeton as part of the Navy V-12 program, and then transferred to Princeton as regular students at the conclusion of the war.”