Politics

Michelle Obama and HealthCare.gov-linked classmate had radical history at Princeton

Toni McCall Townes-Whitley, the former Princeton classmate of Michelle Obama whose company won the no-bid contract to build the HealthCare.gov website, was a student radical whose efforts included bringing a famous black communist to campus.

According to the archives of the student newspaper, Toni McCall Townes-Whitley, Princeton ’85, was chairwoman of the Organization of Black Unity and was the black representative for the Third World Center (TWC) alongside the future first lady. (Related: Michelle Obama and CGI Federal executive belonged to student group at Princeton that hosted pro-terrorist speaker)

Townes-Whitley, née McCall, was a well known black activist at Princeton at the time. She authored a college thesis titled “The Question of Diversity,” calling for more racial quotas. She wrote for a radical newspaper, “La Lutta Continua” (“The Struggle Continues”) and organized a forum “On Being Black.”

“It’s important to have black role models in the colleges; because of CURL [a plan to integrate students racially in housing] there will be a decrease in the amount of upperclass members who are minorities,” McCall said to the Daily Princetonian in 1983, arguing that a plan that sought to house black and white freshmen without regard to race was unsatisfactory.

McCall also brought Manning Marable, who according to Cornel West was the most famous black Communist in America, to campus in November 1984, and favorably compared his activism with that of civil rights leaders.

Marable spoke to TWC’s annual Black Solidarity event where McCall introduced him. He encouraged the audience to vote for Reagan’s opponent Walter Mondale, who “[i]n the context of black solidarity” was both “a lesser evil” and “a choice against Reagan, Reaganism, and racism.”

At the event Marable also sided with the Marxist Nicaraguan dictatorship, encouraging black Americans to express solidarity with “the righteous movements of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, the New Jewel Movement in Grenada, the guerrillas of El Salvador, and especially, our brothers and sisters in South Africa.”

In November 1984, TWC’s board demanded that non-white students should have the right to bar whites from meetings on campus. They also demanded minorities-only meetings with the deans.

The ban doesn’t seem to have been necessary as TWC already “ostracized” even black students it deemed to be too assimilated, according to comments in the student paper. But the TWC continued to press for it, arguing that blacks ought to be able to bar whites from attending events aimed at discussion of “sensitive” racial issues.