Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier teaches politics and chairs the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His latest book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012).

Recent Articles

Was Albert Einstein a Racist?

The great scientist was a radical egalitarian—but subject nonetheless to some of the biases of his time.

Public Domain Albert Einstein in his office at the University of Berlin A lbert Einstein is back in the news, but not because someone has disproved or confirmed one of his theories. The publication of Einstein’s travel diaries last week reveal that he wrote some racist things about the Chinese back in the early 1920s. The media have jumped on Einstein’s observations to undermine his reputation as a progressive, suggesting that the world-renowned physicist was a hypocrite. “Einstein's travel diaries reveal physicist's racism,” BBC News headlined its story. USA Today’s version was: “Einstein was a racist? His 1920s travel diaries contain shocking slurs against Chinese people.” Wrote Fox News: “Einstein's diaries contain shocking details of his racism.” Princeton University Press (in coordination with the Einstein Papers Project at the California Institute of Technology) just published The Travel Diaries of Albert Einstein: The Far East, Palestine, and Spain, 1922–1923 , translated into...

For NFL Players, Civil -- and Visible -- Disobedience Is the Only Option

Taking a knee is in the best American tradition of protest.

(Ryan Kang via AP)
(Ryan Kang via AP) Members of the Houston Texans kneel during the national anthem during an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks on October 29, 2017, in Seattle. L ast week, NFL owners capitulated to President Donald Trump by voting to require players to stand on the field for the national anthem. Teams will be subject to a fine if any player disobeys, according to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The next day, Trump applauded the owners for doing “the right thing.” Players who refuse to stand for the anthem, Trump declared, “shouldn’t be in this country.” Many NFL players have reacted with anger over the league’s new policy and Trump’s comments. “It’s disgusting because of our First Amendment rights,” said Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall. “[Trump is] an idiot, plain and simple,” said Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin. In what the owners described as a “compromise,” the new policy gives players the option of remaining in the locker room during the “Star-...

Recalling Pete Seeger’s Controversial Performance on the Smothers Brothers Show 50 Years Ago

Seeger had been blacklisted as a communist and this gutsy defiance of a corporate media giant marked his return to the mainstream cultural scene.

Josef Schwarz/Creative Commons Pete Seeger performing in 1986 F ifty years ago this week, folk singer Pete Seeger performed the controversial anti-war song “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour show on CBS television. The story of that appearance, and that song, illustrates the tumultuous political tensions of the era and was a bold act of defiance against corporate media power. Seeger, who died in 2014, is now viewed as a legendary figure in American history. But when Tom and Dick Smothers invited him on their show, many people still viewed him as a dangerous radical, marginalized by the nation’s political, business, and media establishment. Seeger had been blacklisted from network television since the 1950s because of his leftist politics. For a brief period in the early 1950s, as a member of the Weavers quartet, he performed in prestigious nightclubs, appeared on network television shows, and recorded several hit songs, including “Goodnight, Irene,” “...

Who Was Marjory Stoneman Douglas?

The namesake of the high school where 17 people were killed was a remarkable progressive activist—much like the students now demanding real gun control.

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee Law enforcement officers block off the entrance to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida T here’s nothing on the Parkland, Florida, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School website about the woman whose name adorns the school, so its students may not realize that in rising from last week’s tragedy to speak truth to power, they are following in Douglas’s activist footsteps. Douglas would certainly see a bit of herself in Emma Gonzalez, the poised and eloquent young woman whose speech electrified her classmates, teachers, parents, and the whole country at a Fort Lauderdale rally on Saturday, only days after a gunman entered her school and killed 17 people. “If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it,” said the 18-year-old senior, “I'm going to happily ask him how much money he received from the...

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