The Princeton & Slavery Project developed from a small undergraduate research seminar supported by a Humanities Council David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Grant. First taught in the spring of 2013 by Professor of History Martha A. Sandweiss, with assistance from University Archivist Dan Linke and his staff, the class sought evidence that might clarify whether Princeton University benefited from enslaved labor or money derived from slave labor. Students also sought to understand whether early college faculty and staff owned slaves, whether students brought slaves to campus, and how the larger culture of slavery in America shaped campus conversations and life.
With four years of Humanities Council funding for archival research by postdoctoral fellows, the project became far more ambitious in scale and scope. From 2013-2015, postdoctoral fellow Craig Hollander worked with students and delved into University and regional archives, uncovering key documents. From 2015-2017, post-doctoral fellow Joseph Yannielli conducted additional research and spearheaded the work for the website, developed in collaboration with the Center for Digital Humanities. Graduate student Isabela Morales joined the team as a research assistant in 2013-2016 and editor and project manager in 2017.
The Humanities Council provided three additional Magic Grants to support a documentary film, an art installation, and the development and launch of the website archive.
Following the Humanities Council’s lead, close to a dozen other University departments, programs, and affiliated groups contributed essential organizational and financial support for the project.
The project has been featured on the University homepage and in national media, including:
- The New York Times, “Princeton Digs Deep Into Its Fraught Racial History”
- The New York Times, “Putting the Ghosts of Princeton’s Racial Past Onstage”
- The Chronicle of Higher Education
- The Atlantic
- A special issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly