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 New York Times, 4/17/18
Five months after the release of sweeping research into its deep historical connections with slavery Princeton University announced on Tuesday that it would name two prominent spaces in honor of enslaved people who lived or worked on its campus.
A new walking tour offers the opportunity to learn about the personal experiences of African Americans who lived, worked and studied at Princeton. “Stories of African American Life at Princeton” is the first of an eventual series of historical walking tours of campus.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 12/12/18
In late 2017, Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. appointed a committee of six persons to prepare a report on the legacy of slavery and racism in the history of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The report cites the Princeton & Slavery Project as a primary model.
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.
Facing Slavery: Princeton Family Stories
Facing Slavery: Princeton Family Stories is a 55 minute documentary written and edited by Melvin McCray (Class of 1974) and produced by McCray and Martha A. Sandweiss on the occasion of the Princeton & Slavery Project symposium in November 2017.
"A Visit to the Colored People of Princeton"
Ann Maria Davison, a visitor from New Orleans, provided a detailed picture of Princeton's black community in 1855.