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.
New efforts at one of the nation’s oldest elite universities to embrace and reveal its complicated past and become more welcoming to an increasingly diverse student body.
John Witherspoon (1723-1794), Princeton’s sixth president and founding father of the United States, had a complex relationship to slavery. Though he advocated revolutionary ideals of liberty and personally tutored several free Africans and African Americans in Princeton, he himself owned slaves and both lectured and voted against the abolition of slavery in New Jersey.
Princeton and the Colonization Movement
Founded and supported by 19th-century Princeton alumni, the American Colonization Society promoted the repatriation of freed slaves to a colony in Africa. Ultimately, however, colonization was more of an intellectual movement for moderately antislavery whites than a practical option for free blacks.
Historical Campus Landscape
An interactive map of the Princeton campus, highlighting major buildings and memorials and their relationship to slavery.
James C. Johnson with goods for sale
Photograph of former slave James Collins Johnson vending his wares on campus.