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A letter from an alum about the John Witherspoon neighborhood in Princeton, N.J.

May 18, 2003

I was delighted to read Kathryn Greenwood's account of Princeton students' involvement with the Witherspoon neighborhood (feature, May 14). As far as I can remember, I never saw a black person on campus in any capacity (Prospect Street excepted) until the autumn of 1942.

That fall The Daily Princetonian, under the chairmanship of Frank Broderick ’43, conducted a campaign for the admission of Negroes to Princeton, and as editorial cochairman, I was much involved in writing the editorials. The officers of Whig-Clio quite properly scheduled a meeting at which the issues could be thrashed out.

When we got to the auditorium, we discovered that all the back rows were occupied by Negroes (I use the word in the context of the time) — and almost all of them residents of Witherspoon Street. They were quiet and respectful, but after the scheduled presentations had been made, the chairman invited comments from those in the back rows. What they said, without anger or bitterness, made our debate seem trivial. To this day, I believe that if the campus at large, and especially the Undergraduate Council, had been present, the Prince campaign would have been successful.

In the end, the outcome then was perhaps irrelevant. The war itself altered the circumstances and the atmosphere. Nevertheless, the admission of blacks to Princeton proceeded very slowly.

Philip W. Quigg ’43
Ridgefield, Conn.

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