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.
Founding Director (Emerita)
Martha A. Sandweiss, Professor of History Emerita at Princeton University, founded the Princeton & Slavery Project in 2013. 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.
Editor and Project Manager (2017-Present)
R. Isabela Morales is an award-winning author and public historian. Her first book, Happy Dreams of Liberty: An American Family in Slavery and Freedom, received the 2023 Frederick Douglass Book Prize, the 2023 Tom Watson Brown Book Award, the 2023 Shapiro Book Prize, the 2023 William Nelson Cromwell Book Prize, and is a finalist for the prestigious Harriet Tubman Prize. Dr. Morales received her Ph.D. in history from Princeton University in 2019. She has been involved in the Princeton & Slavery Project since its founding as a researcher, contributing writer, editor, and project manager.
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 was the first project manager and lead developer of the Princeton & Slavery Project website, as well as several other digital history projects.
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.
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.
Teal Arcadi • Megan Baumhammer • Fiona I. Bell • William E. Brown • José M. Rico Chinchilla • Indy Davis • Andrew D. Edwards • Eugene Evans • José E. Argueta Funes • Michael R. Glass • Blake Grindon • Julia A. Grummitt • Kayra Guven • Casey N. Hedstrom • Larissa Jimenez Gratereaux • Emily M. Kern • Anne E. Kerth • Bryan LaPointe • Jessica R. Mack • John Paniagua • Florencia Pierri • Amna Qayyum • Morgan J. Robinson • Francesca Saldan • Shelby Sinclair • Geneva Smith • Joseph Snyder • Nicholas J. Williams
• 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
Grafton Studio • Crowd Communications Group • Princeton Office of Communications
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
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
Historical Society of Princeton • McCarter Theatre • Princeton Public Library • Princeton Public Schools