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. Princeton educated leaders of America’s fight for independence and hosted the Continental Congress in 1783. But the University’s first nine Presidents all owned slaves, a slave sale took place on campus in 1766, and enslaved people lived at the President’s House until at least 1822. One professor owned a slave as late as 1840.

The Princeton & Slavery Project investigates the University’s involvement with the institution of slavery. It explores the slave-holding practices of Princeton’s early trustees and faculty members, considers the impact of donations derived from the profits of slave labor, and looks at the broader culture of slavery in the state of New Jersey, which did not fully abolish slavery until 1865. It also documents the southern origins of many Princeton students during the ante-bellum period and considers how the presence of these southern students shaped campus conversations about politics and race.

The Princeton & Slavery Project is an ongoing investigation. We invite you to explore the many stories and documents included here and to contact us with research, stories, and ideas of your own.

Read Our Summary Report

Our Team

Martha A. Sandweiss

Project Director

Martha A. Sandweiss, Professor of History at Princeton University, is the founder and director of the Princeton & Slavery Project. Her work focuses on western American history, visual culture, and race. Her many publications include Print the Legend: Photography in the American West (2002) and Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line (2009). She is also the editor of Photography in Nineteenth-Century America (1991) and co-editor of The Oxford History of the American West (1994). Before coming to Princeton in 2009, she taught at Amherst College, and worked as a museum curator and director.

Joseph Yannielli

Project Manager and Lead Developer (2015-2017)

Joseph Yannielli received his PhD from Yale and was the Perkins Postdoctoral Fellow in the Princeton Humanities Council. He is an expert on the history of slavery and abolition, with a special focus on America, West Africa, and the wider world during the nineteenth century. His other areas of interest include political and social movements, missionaries and religion, capitalism and globalization, and the United States in the world. At present, he is completing a book about the Mendi Mission and the role of Africa in the American abolition of slavery. He is the founding manager and lead developer of the Princeton & Slavery Project website and several other digital history projects

Craig Hollander

Research Director (2013-2015)

Craig Hollander is an assistant professor of American history at The College of New Jersey. Before joining the TCNJ faculty, Professor Hollander was the Behrman Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at Princeton University. His dissertation, titled "Against a Sea of Troubles: Slave Trade Suppressionism During the Early Republic," won both the 2014 C. Vann Woodward Prize from the Southern Historical Association and the 2014 SHEAR Dissertation Prize from the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. Professor Hollander’s manuscript is under contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press.

R. Isabela Morales

Content Editor and Project Manager (2017-2018)

Isabela Morales is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Princeton University, specializing in the 19th-century United States, slavery, and emancipation. Her dissertation is a multi-generational narrative history of one African American family’s migration from Alabama across the American West during the 19th century. She completed her M.A. in history from Princeton in 2014, and a B.A. in history and American Studies from the University of Alabama in 2012. She has a strong interest in public history, and has been involved in the Princeton & Slavery Project as a researcher and contributing writer (2013-16) as well as the website's Content Editor and Project Manager (2017-18).

Dan Linke

Archives Research Advisor

Daniel J. Linke received bachelors and master’s degrees from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, and worked at three other archival repositories including the University of Oklahoma, and the New York State Archives before arriving at Princeton University in 1994. First serving as the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library’s assistant archivist, he was promoted in July 2002 to his current position, the University Archivist and Curator of Public Policy Papers. As head of the Mudd library, he is responsible for collection development and oversees the library’s public service and technical service work as well.

Student Assistants

Teal Arcadi
Megan Baumhammer
Fiona I. Bell‎
William E. Brown‎
José M. Rico Chinchilla
Andrew D. Edwards
Eugene Evans
José E. Argueta Funes
Michael R. Glass
Blake Grindon
Julia A. Grummitt
Casey N. Hedstrom‎

Emily M. Kern
Anne E. Kerth
‎Bryan LaPointe
Jessica R. Mack‎
John Paniagua
Florencia Pierri
Amna Qayyum
Morgan J. Robinson
Shelby Sinclair‎
Geneva Smith
Joseph Snyder
Nicholas J. Williams

Our Partners

Project Advisors

John Anagbo • April Armstrong • Jean Bauer • Dan Claro • Christa Cleeton • Kathleen Crown • Jim Floyd • Tera Hunter • Izzy Kasdin • Francis Kayiwa • Axa Liauw • Jennifer Loessy • Sara Logue • Emily Mann • Melvin McCray • Michele Minter • Susan Promislo • Min Pullan • Ada Rauch • Kevin Reiss • Carol Rigolot • Shirley Satterfield • Hannah Schmidl • James Steward • Sorat Tungkasiri • Kristen Turner

Design Consultants

Grafton Studio • Crowd Communications Group • Princeton Office of Communications

Principal Funders

Princeton University Humanities Council, through support from the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Grants and the Perkins Postdoctoral Fellowship

Princeton Histories Fund • Friends of the Princeton University Library • Center for Digital Humanities @ Princeton

Princeton Partners

Center for Collaborative History • Community-Based Learning Initiative • Department of African American Studies • Department of History • Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity • Office of the Provost • Princeton University Archives • Princeton University Art Museum • Princeton University Library • Program in American Studies • University Center for Human Values • University Committee on Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences • Whitman College

Community Partners

Historical Society of Princeton • McCarter Theatre • Princeton Public Library • Princeton Public Schools

Did You Know...?Most of Princeton's founding trustees bought, sold, traded, or inherited slaves. Read More