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.
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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 Washington Post, 8/24/19
Aaron Burr Jr., third Vice President of the United States and son of Princeton president Aaron Burr Sr., fathered two children with a woman of color who worked as a servant in his home for several years.
The New York Times, 10/21/19
A New Jersey seminary has pledged to spend $27 million on scholarships and other initiatives to address its historical ties to slavery, in what appears to be the biggest effort of its kind.
The Washington Post, 11/18/19
The United States’ most elite universities continue to grapple with their historic ties to slavery.
Joseph Henry and Sam Parker
Joseph Henry spent fourteen years at the College of New Jersey, serving as Chair of Natural History between 1832 and 1846. Sam Parker, his assistant, was a free black man.
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.
Historical Campus Landscape
An interactive map of the Princeton campus, highlighting major buildings and memorials and their relationship to slavery.
"Rev. I. W. L. Roundtree Has Risen From Slavery's Estate"
Newspaper article profiling I. W. L. Roundtree, a late-19th century Princeton graduate who was born a slave.