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 & Slavery Project investigates the University’s involvement with the institution of slavery and ongoing legacies of institutional racism. 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
Princeton University, 3/29/21
In September 2020, the Trustees of Princeton University convened the Ad Hoc Committee on Principles to Govern Renaming and Changes to Campus Iconography.
Journal of American History, December 2020
"Of all the available examples, the Princeton & Slavery web site offers far and away the most well-developed and best organized of these digital treatments."
The New York Times, 11/6/17
Princeton University has a long history connected to slavery, which has remained hidden until now.
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.
Slavery at the President's House
At least five Princeton presidents who served between 1756 and 1822 owned enslaved people who lived, worked—and on one occasion were auctioned off—at the President’s House on campus. During this period, the President’s House was the center of slavery at Princeton.
The Princeton & Slavery Plays, Part I: Under the Liberty Trees
Interviews and clips from "Under the Liberty Trees," by Emily Mann, which premiered at the McCarter Theatre in November 2017 as part of the Princeton & Slavery Project Symposium.
Letter from John Witherspoon Woods
Letter from John Witherspoon Woods (class of 1837) to his mother, describing a student-led attack against an abolitionist.