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Journal of American History Reviews The Princeton & Slavery Project

"Of all of the available examples, the Princeton & Slavery Web site offers far and away the most well-developed and best organized of these digital treatments. Begun in the context of a 2013 undergraduate research seminar taught by Martha Sandweiss and launched with the current design and architecture in 2017, the site represents the work of a large team of postdocs, graduate andundergraduate students, and digital humanities experts. Not dominated by a single linear narrative, the site’s information architecture divides the content into “sources” and “stories,” allowing visitors to choose their own path as they explore a collection of over four hundred digitized primary sources and any of over one hundred narratives. 

The first story is Sandweiss and Craig Hollander’s summary report, which provides a historical overview. “Princeton and Slavery: Holding the Center” lays out the arc of the history, from the institution’s early years as the College of New Jersey, through the Civil War, to the long stretch of historical memory surrounding slavery. The narrative, which is well networked to a number of other stories that offer more in-depth interpretation of key events and individuals, effectively marshals primary sources with good metadata and digital visualizations to frame the Princeton experience in the larger context of New Jersey and the student population. The other stories detail the lived experiences of individual African Americans, both enslaved and free, and document slave sales, moments of great violence, and key debates about slavery, abolition, and colonization. 

While the sources and stories form the heart of the site, the architecture is extensible enough to make space for new developments, which in recent years have included an array of digital interactives, audio-visual materials, and instructional materials to support both K–12 teachers and university faculty. Princeton & Slavery has everything that a visitor would desire from a site such as this: a clear overview, rich detail, well-described archival sources
for further research, and an easy-to-navigate design."

Read the Journal of American History, Vol. 107, No. 3 (December 2020).

Did You Know...?A fugitive slave worked on the Princeton campus. Read More