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African Americans on Campus, 1746-1876
African Americans were a constant presence at the College of New Jersey as servants, support staff, research and teaching assistants, and students. They labored under harsh conditions on a campus dominated by racism and white supremacy.
William Taylor: Princeton’s Last Independent African American Campus Vendor
William Taylor, a black entrepreneur in Princeton in the first half of the 20th century, was the third and last in a line of independent African American vendors who sold refreshments to students. The nickname students used for Taylor (a racial slur) reflected the casual racism in Princeton was still very much present during the postbellum era, as in the days of the first campus vendor, former fugitive slave James Collins Johnson.
The Skeleton in the Basement
In 1853, two Princeton alumni described an event in which anatomy students stole a body from the local black cemetery. Though potentially fictional, their story illustrates how elite white men claimed authority over black bodies beyond the institution of slavery.
The Whig-Cliosophic Society and Slavery
Princeton’s rival Whig and Clio societies provided students with powerful platforms to discuss controversial issues of the day, frequently slavery and emancipation. From the late 18th century to the outbreak of the Civil War, members of both societies consistently opposed the emancipation of slaves, fostering a conservative, anti-abolition intellectual climate on campus.
Princeton and the Civil War
The Civil War divided Princeton as well as the United States along regional lines, complicating the university’s patriotic history of wartime service as students and alumni fought in both the Union and Confederate forces.
Albert B. Dod Hall, a Princeton dormitory still in use today, c. 1903.
William Taylor on Campus
Photograph of William Taylor, an African American vendor on campus during the early 20th century.
View of Pyne Library
Photograph of Pyne Library on Princeton's main campus.
Present-day Clio Hall on the Princeton University campus.
Statue of Joseph Henry
Statue of Joseph Henry outside of Princeton's Frist Campus Center.
Princeton to Name Two Campus Spaces in Honor of Slaves
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.
Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Principles to Govern Renaming and Changes to Campus Iconography
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.
Black Artist Unveils Sculpture at Site of Princeton University Slave Auction
This campus-wide public arts project confronts Princeton’s ties to slavery.
Thrive Conference: 'This is our Reunions'
Princeton Alumni Weekly, 11/13/19
During the three-day conference, Princeton’s black community reflected on highs and lows. The complex history of African Americans on Princeton’s campus was a recurring theme throughout the conference.
African American Life at Princeton Is First in Series of Historical Walking Tours
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.
A Campus Divided: War at Princeton
Friday, June 1
Mudd Library, Harlan Room
James Johnson Exhibit
May 1 through Fall 2018
Frist Campus Center, East TV Room
Tune Every Heart: The Princeton & Slavery Project in Song
Saturday, January 13, 2018
1 pm and 5 pm
Faculty Room, Nassau Hall, Princeton University Campus
Artist Talk: Titus Kaphar
Thursday, November 16, 2017
McCosh 10, Princeton University
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Memorial Plaque - President's House
In May 2019, Princeton University placed a memorial plaque commemorating the 16 enslaved people who lived and worked on campus on permanent display outside the historic President's House.
Impressions of Liberty
Artist Titus Kaphar's art installation, Impressions of Liberty, on display outside the Maclean House on the Princeton University campus in November and December 2017.