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Princeton and Slavery: Holding the Center

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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.

Betsey Stockton

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Betsey Stockton (1798?-1865), a former slave of Princeton president Ashbel Green, became a prominent and respected educator in Princeton, Philadelphia, and the Sandwich Islands (present-day Hawaii).

James Collins Johnson: The Princeton Fugitive Slave

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James Collins Johnson, a fugitive slave freed after an 1843 trial in Princeton, became a prominent figure in town and on campus over the course of his many decades working at the College of New Jersey.

The Riot of 1846

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In June 1846, more than a dozen Southern students mobbed, whipped, and nearly killed an African American man in Princeton—but only after fighting off another group of classmates who opposed them.  This brief flashpoint of violence, in which Princeton students came to blows after dividing along regional lines, revealed the tensions over race and slavery present even at a college known for its moderate conservatism.

Moses Taylor Pyne and the Sugar Plantations of the Americas

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The financial contributions of Moses Taylor Pyne (class of 1877), one of Princeton's most prominent benefactors, reveal the complex relationship between Princeton, the American sugar trade, and the slave economy.

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Did You Know...?A slave sale took place on campus in 1766. Read More