About the Project
Princeton University, founded as the College of New Jersey in 1746, exemplifies the central paradox of American history. From the start, liberty and slavery were intertwined. The Princeton and Slavery Project investigates the University’s involvement with the institution of slavery. We invite you to explore the many stories and sources included here and to contact us with research, stories, and ideas of your own.
News & Events
The New York Times, 11/6/17
Princeton University has a long history connected to slavery, which has remained hidden until now.
The Atlantic, 11/9/17
A new sculpture project thoughtfully grapples with the university’s historical participation in slavery.
The Huffington Post, 11/28/17
Titus Kaphar's work for the Princeton & Slavery Project tells a story of buried history.
State of the Arts NJ, 1/8/18
Princeton University faces its legacy of slavery in a wide-ranging history project that engages the public with art, theater, and more.
The New York Review of Books, 2/7/18
From their very beginnings, the American university and American slavery have been intertwined, but only recently are we beginning to understand how deeply.
Princeton's Slaveholding Presidents
Princeton’s first nine presidents all owned slaves at some point in their lives. Though widely considered to be forward-thinking religious, intellectual, and political leaders in the 18th and 19th centuries, they failed to align their practices with their ideals—embodying the tensions between liberty and slavery that characterized American life from the colonial period to the Civil War.
Samuel Stanhope Smith
Samuel Stanhope Smith, Princeton’s seventh president (1795-1812), was an early defender of the unity of mankind—arguing that environment, not innate biological differences, determined one’s race. His convictions, however, did not prevent him from owning slaves himself, and his teachings ultimately influenced Princeton alumni to establish the American Colonization Society.
Princeton & Slavery Project Symposium - Welcome and Project Overview
Professor Martha A. Sandweiss presents an overview of the Princeton & Slavery Project at the Princeton & Slavery Project Symposium held in November 2017.
Two Women, a Man, and Three Children
An advertisement announcing the estate sale of President Samuel Finley, held at the President's House on campus.