Before Albert Einstein Spoke Out For Civil Rights, He Had Racist Views by the Forward

Before Albert Einstein Spoke Out For Civil Rights, He Had Racist Views

In addition to his scientific research, Albert Einstein also famously advocated for civil rights — but a series of travel diaries recently published in English for the first time revealed that the physicist held racist and xenophobic views, CNN reported.

The writings record Einstein’s experiences in the Middle East and Asia between October 1922 and March the following year. Einstein later became a refugee from Nazi Germany who regularly denounced the racism he saw in the United States and called racial segregation “a disease of white people.” But he wrote during his travels that the Chinese were “industrious, filthy, obtuse people,” remarking how they “don’t sit on benches while eating but squat like Europeans do when they relieve themselves out in the leafy woods.”

Einstein’s dehumanizing characterizations extended beyond the Chinese. Upon reaching Port Said, Egypt, he encountered what he described as “screaming and gesticulating Levantines of every shade, who lunge at our ship. As if spewed from hell.”

The journals have been edited and translated into English by archivist and historian Ze’ev Rosenkranz, who told CNN that the diaries come as a shock considering Einstein’s image as a “humanitarian icon.”

Some argue that Einstein’s xenophobic descriptions simply reflect stereotypes widespread in the West at the time. But Rosenkranz does not believe the scientist can be excused.

“I don’t like that explanation,” he said. “There were other views prevalent at the time that were more tolerant.”

Contact Haley Cohen at


Albert Einstein Travel Diaries Reveal Racism

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Before Albert Einstein Spoke Out For Civil Rights, He Had Racist Views

Thank you!

This article has been sent!